HAYWARD — Battling the perception that a hospital must be a gray, depressing place bathed in fluorescent light, St. Rose Hospital is inaugurating a new Women's Imaging Center that is supposed to feel more like a spa.

"We're trying to make this a good experience for women," said Dr. Michael Faer, St. Rose's director of diagnostic imaging. "It's designed by women. It's staffed by women. It's for women."

Replacing its former breast care center, the nonprofit Hayward hospital designed the new $1.5 million suite with privacy, comfort and low-radiation treatments in mind. Patients get cloth, not paper, gowns. Walls are decorated with art, not anatomy. Magazines rest atop an antique wooden dresser.

The center began operating its brand-new digital mammography system at the end of January and since then hasinstalled new ultrasound equipment and a machine that measures bone density to test for osteoporosis and other bone health conditions.

"The idea is we use low-dose radiation, and no radiation for ultrasound," Baer said.

The hospital is hosting a public grand opening celebration and tours of the facility from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The center is in Suite 214 of the hospital's Medical Arts Building, 27206 Calaroga Ave., in Hayward.