As a nurse at Baltimore County General Hospital, Shelia Johnson often has to come to work at 7 a.m. and sometimes works hours of unplanned overtime.
When that happens, Johnson, mother of a 15-month-old son, A.J., has to scramble to make sure her son's baby-sitter can watch him for the extra time. It can be difficult.
It was for workers such as Johnson that Baltimore County General Hospital went into partnership with The Kid's Place, a regional child-care company, to build and operate a 140-child day-care center on hospital grounds.
"I think it's great," said Johnson, 37, a nurse at the hospital for 10 years. "I can't wait until it opens."
The new day-care center, which is being built by The Kid's Place on land owned by the hospital, will primarily serve the hospital's 1,100 employees, said Mark Shugarman, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the hospital. But it also will be available to the larger community, he said.
"There's a great shortage of day care in our area," Shugarman added.
Indeed. In Baltimore County alone, there are some 83,000 working mothers but only 15,000 regulated day-care slots, said Eloise Stockdale, a child-care official for Baltimore County.
Statewide, 78 percent of working mothers with young children cannot ind regulated day care, Stockdale said.
"It's going to get worse," Stockdale said. "Child-care problems are not going to go away."
Baltimore County General Hospital isn't the first county hospital with on-site day care, Stockdale said. St. Joseph's, Greater Baltimore Medical Center and St. Agnes Hospital all have programs.
According to Shugarman, the one-story, 9,000-square-foot day-care center at Baltimore County General will be open by December. Ground was broken July 11.
Martha McLaughlin, a public relations spokeswoman hired by the hospital, said the center will feature eight classrooms for children ages 2 to 6. There also will be a limited number of spaces for infants.
The hours, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., are longer than normal, to specially serve hospital employees. It will also be open on holidays, McLaughlin said.
Besides indoor and outdoor play grounds and a sun room, there will be a number of educational programs that will be "developmentally appropriate" to the child's age, she said.