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After more than a decade, military doctors in Vicenza, Italy, will soon be back in the baby business.

The Europe Army Regional Medical Command announced Monday that a $3.2 million birthing center will be built next to the health clinic on Caserma Ederle, with a projected opening date in late spring.

“The spouses that have heard about it … elated would be a good description,” said Lt. Col. John Alvarez, the clinic’s deputy commander.

After a drawdown of troops in Vicenza a decade ago, soldiers and their families have had to use local hospitals or travel to other military facilities. Alvarez estimates about 40 percent of the Vicenza births in recent years have occurred at the Air Force’s hospital in Sacile near Aviano Air Base, about a 90-minute drive from Vicenza.

Another one-third of the babies were born in local Italian hospitals, mainly the San Bortolo facility in Vicenza. Other pregnant women chose to go back to the States.

Those with difficult births were sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany or the university hospital in nearby Padova. That will still be the case even when the center opens on base.

Andriolo S.R.L. has been awarded the contract to build the 7,700-square-foot facility, which will employ at least 33 people when it opens. It will feature two birthing rooms, operating rooms, examination rooms and a family waiting area.

Alvarez said that space is tight on Caserma Ederle, but the command feels strongly that it needs a place for soldiers and their spouses to give birth. There are about a dozen babies born in the Vicenza community each month and, he said, that number is projected to grow to more than 20 as more troops arrive in the community in a few years.

The 31st Medical Group, which operates the facility in Sacile while its medical facility is under massive renovation at Aviano, said the births from Vicenza comprise only about five of the 35 monthly deliveries it handles. Staffing levels won’t be affected by the drop in births.

Having a birthing center on base in Vicenza will help morale, Alvarez said, and cut down on lost time soldiers spend away from units traveling to other facilities.

“Obviously, a soldier’s place when his wife is delivering is with her,” Alvarez said.

Soon, that place could be on base in Vicenza.

Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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