GALVESTON — After delivering nearly 20,000 babies in the three years since Hurricane Ike, the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch will open a new, state-of-the-art Comprehensive Maternity Center at UTMB’s John Sealy Hospital.

Reconstruction and renovations at UTMB meant that the department moved around since Ike. But Feb. 15 marks a new era when the public is invited to join the UTMB community for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception from 4 to 6 p.m. at the new facility, located on the third floor of the hospital, Eighth and Market streets in Galveston.

State Rep. Craig Eiland, whose children were born at UTMB, will join Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski as special guest speaker at the ribbon cutting. UTMB President Dr. David L. Callender, along with Dr. Gary Hankins, chairman of UTMB’s department of obstetrics and gynecology, and Dr. Joan Richardson, chairwoman of UTMB’s department of pediatrics, will speak at the event as well. Remarks begin at 4:30 p.m. Tours of the new facility will follow.

The new center boasts 16 private, spacious labor-delivery and recovery suites, five triage rooms, four prolonged observation rooms, a maternal intensive monitoring bay, and an obstetric post-surgical recovery area. The facilities are supported by five operating rooms and one fetal surgery room. The center is on the same floor as UTMB’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, making it ideally suited for high-risk maternity patients.

Families who choose UTMB’s new center will be supported by health-care professionals with the expertise to respond immediately to the most complicated pregnancies, including obstetrician gynecologists, neonatologists, obstetric anesthesiology specialists and highly skilled obstetric nurses.

“Our maternity team boasts numerous Ob/Gyn specialists with board certifications in both critical care and maternal-fetal medicine — a capability equaled by virtually no other facility in Texas,” said Hankins. Mothers at lower risk for complications have access to UTMB’s certified nurse midwives, who are available 24 hours a day to attend births and provide woman-centered care in UTMB’s Ob/Gyn clinics. The midwives and physicians work closely together to provide the individualized birth experiences many families request.

The Comprehensive Maternity Center is a part of the larger John Sealy Hospital Modernization Project for which the Sealy & Smith Foundation has provided the majority of funding. The cost of the modernization project is $36 million and includes, in addition to the new maternity center, improvements to the two medical-surgical wings (now completed), the Blocker Burn Unit, the pediatric intensive care unit (in construction) and hospital infrastructure (in construction), according to Mike Shriner, UTMB’s vice president for business operations and facilities.

Patient admissions to the new facility will begin Thursday, Feb. 16. Public tours of the facility will be available the first Monday of each month at 9 a.m.

Guests who attend the event may park in the Public Parking Garage located in the circle drive across from John Sealy Hospital at Eighth and Market streets. For more information, call 409-772-0148.