Hospital caters to women at new site

Center aims to teach and treat patients

August 03, 1999|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

It looks more like a library than a hospital.

That's exactly the point.

Carroll County General Hospital's new Women's Place, set to fully open in October, is designed for a dual mission of teaching and treating female patients -- whom studies have shown are the hottest target group in health care.

The outpatient center is on the Westminster hospital's campus and was modeled after other successful women's centers at Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, said Teresa Fletcher, director of marketing at the hospital.

Programs and free screenings have drawn 1,000 women since March and have focused on self-defense, teen wellness, heart disease, nutrition and stress. The center also has offered a lecture on contemporary women by "national humor expert" Regina Barreca, a professor at the University of Connecticut.

Coming soon, Fletcher says, are appointments and lectures on alternative healing methods such as acupuncture, therapeutic massage, energy healing and aromatherapy.

"Hopefully, we'll have the women who attend in our database here and we can see the outcome in their wellness," she said. "And we are also trying to make it fun."

The center, decorated in mahogany and mauve with wing chairs, is the latest addition to the 38-year-old nonprofit hospital, the county's third-largest employer. A 13,500-square-foot cancer center is scheduled to open next year.

The women's center was started with a $450,000 state grant matched by money from the hospital, some of which was raised at last year's hospital golf tournament. Community support has materialized: Cranberry Mall donated $250 from Mother's Day gift-wrap proceeds this year.

An extensive women's health library with 600 titles is available, with a conference room for lectures. Soon, an imaging center will open for mammogram and ultrasound appointments.

Decision-makers

Opening the center, hospital administrators said, became a priority after statistics showed women make most of the health care decisions for their families. Nationally, such centers are part of a trend.

Overall, studies show about 75 percent of all health care services are used by female patients. With more federal research dollars pouring into studies on menopause, breast cancer and osteoporosis, women's centers are set to become community gathering spots for health concerns, Fletcher says.

"We have a full calendar here, and we've had to schedule more sessions," said Dr. Denise Hooper, the medical director of the Women's Place. "Women want answers and a place where they can get them. This is supply and demand."

Hooper, who is employed by a private radiologist and volunteered to serve as medical director for the center, said she was one of 500 who attended a national conference in North Carolina in the spring about the need for women's health centers.

`Long overdue'

"This has been long overdue," she said. "It will definitely be a success here -- women in the community have been going to Baltimore County for their services."

Some health care classes will cost no more than $10, and alternative care therapies -- to begin by the end of the summer -- will be in the $50 to $60 range, Fletcher said. A hospital newsletter that reaches 47,000 households in Carroll will detail the center's programs.

"Our mission is to constantly listen to the needs of women in Carroll County," Fletcher said. "This is more of a one-stop shop for women."

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