Seton Southwest Hospital, joined by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and other guests, broke ground on a facility expansion Jan. 4.

The expansion is an $8.2 million project that will add a Level II nursery to the labor and delivery department, three additional labor, delivery, recovery and post-partum beds for a total of nine beds, eight new post-partum only beds and a covered drop-off area for patients coming to the hospital's emergency room.

The growth will allow Seton Southwest to double its infant delivery rate from the current average of 65 newborns a month, according to Mary Faria, vice president and chief operating officer of Seton Southwest Hospital.

Leffingwell said the Seton expansion will go a long way toward helping people in the community.

"Seton has been such an asset to the city of Austin, not just in this hospital, but as they begin to expand into Hays County and Williamson County and expand their facilities in central Austin," he said.

The Austin mayor also talked about the significance of the partnership between Seton hospitals and The University of Texas, specifically regarding the effort to establish a new medical school at the UT campus—an initiative championed by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D–Austin.

He said that hospitals like Seton Southwest would provide research facilities in order to bring economic assets and improved health care to the community.

Seton has employed the Polkinghorn Group Architects Inc. of Austin to design the new facilities—a project that Faria said has been several years in the making.

"This project was approved three times in the past and for very valid reasons had to be postponed," she said. "The hospital works to make money that we can give back to our organization, so then it can be allocated to do expansions like this. When we enter into any expansion we have to do the financial analysis to make sure it makes sense for all the right reasons. So, we wanted to be sure that it made financial sense for us as well."

In addition to one full-sized shovel, event participants used toy sandbox shovels to ceremoniously turn dirt at the construction site located behind the existing hospital. Construction fencing was erected Nov. 7 in anticipation of the project start date and will take an estimated 10–12 months to complete.

Faria said that although there is much excitement about the expansion, there are some pitfalls that come with constructing new facilities.

"This is a long-awaited expansion for our hospital and, although it is exciting, we will experience some noise and disruption, especially in the emergency room and labor and delivery," she said. "We will do all we can to minimize noise and disruption of ongoing hospital operations during construction, but we will no doubt have both as the project progresses."

She added that it was a special day, not only because of the groundbreaking, but also because it was the feast day of Saint Elizabeth Anne Seton, whom the hospital is named after.