AtlantiCare’s new Medical Arts Pavilion is as much about care as elevating self-esteem of those being cared for

AtlantiCare’s $38.3 million Medical Arts Pavilion — the three-story, 70,000-square-foot building in the heart of Atlantic City that held a ribbon-cutting earlier this month — certainly was built with an aim to address community health and wellness issues and needs by expanding the system’s existing facilities and programs.

The building itself plays a major role in the initiative.

It not only has square footage and the most state-of-the-art equipment, it has an open and airy environment that comes complete with views of the ocean, comfortable rooms and lounges — even a balcony terrace.

“It’s like a resort hotel,” said Sandra Garrett, an assistant vice president for women and children’s services. 

That feeling is intended, Garrett said.

“This is a first-class facility,” she said. “Anyone walking in here immediately feels valued. And that’s a huge psychological lift. That’s why this building was so important to us. It’s a big, beautiful building that everyone can be proud of.”

And take advantage of.

Being in the heart of the city at the corner of Atlantic and Ohio avenues, across from AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center Atlantic City Campus — and, symbolically, in the location where the system started 124 years ago — increases access to residents.

And, while the facility includes extensive space for medical training (including a four-lab simulation center) and will soon be the new home to a 40-bay dialysis center in a joint venture AtlantiCare has with Fresenius Kidney Care, its biggest functions involve care for women and children — including its Maternal Fetal Medicine, Family Planning and Safe Beginnings Program, which includes care for mothers and babies from pregnancy through baby’s first birthday.

Garrett said the various programs will be as much about education as caregiving.

“There is so much that so many people don’t know,” she said. “Especially our young mothers. This building is all about engaging, empowering and educating them about their care.”

Garrett said the building and its programs are another step in addressing the state’s astonishingly low maternal-health statistics. The state has ranked as low as 47th in the country for maternal deaths, numbers that disproportionally impact young mothers from Black and brown communities.

“This is a whole ’nother level of care,” she said. “It’s, ‘I’m here for you — not just so you survive, but that you thrive.’ It’s customizing care based on what mothers are telling us they need and what they’re struggling with.”

Garrett rattles off the fact that the Safe Beginnings Program will have a full-time social worker and doula care for prenatal and postpartum and a storefront that has products for mothers and babies. The program also provides care for moms and families in their homes. 

An SUV enables AtlantiCare staff to visit young mothers before and after birth.

The pavilion also will have confidential family planning services for all ages, including for teenagers in the city and those at Stockton University’s Atlantic City campus. And it has additional transportation services for those who are too far to walk — or who need to see other AtlantiCare providers or specialists in nearby towns.

The fee for these services often is based on the patient’s ability to pay.

“Access is not a barrier,” she said. “If you have insurance, OK. If you don’t have insurance and you can’t pay, that’s OK, too.”

And, while the location will reduce many access issues, it will not solve all of them. That’s why Garrett is particularly proud of the programs that enable AtlantiCare staff to visit young mothers before and after birth.

These visits can be particularly enlightening, Garrett said.

“We have registered nurses that go into the home and do a full assessment of mom and baby, looking at things that aren’t typical, like, ‘Are you bonding? or ‘Is your home safe?’” she said.

“These are things you’re not going to see on the phone or on a doctor’s visit.”

And not just for the new mother and newborn, Garrett said.

“Some of our young mothers have another one in tow,” she said. “That’s another assessment for things as simple as: Do they need a double stroller?”

It’s all done in a way that’s aimed at not only elevating care, but self-esteem — while showing young mothers that they have a partner in their journey.

“We’re about really valuing people — and making them feel valued,” she said.

For Garrett, who has worked at AtlantiCare since the 1980s, it all goes back to the system’s vision and mission.

“This is a small town,” she said. “This is our community. We’re the only health care provider here — and we take that very seriously.

“Our mission has never changed in the 37 years I’ve been here. We’re about creating healthy communities — keeping people well and out of the hospital. That’s been our mission since Day One.”