Akron Children’s Hospital is launching a $200 million expansion to bring new and enhanced services to the region.
The six- or eight-story tower, to be adjacent to its downtown campus near Locust and Exchange streets, will include:
• A new emergency department, with three larger trauma bays, more space to quickly care for less serious illnesses and about 33 treatment rooms, an increase from 29.
• A bigger, two-floor neonatal intensive-care unit with roughly 72 private rooms, an increase from 59 neonatal beds, most not in private rooms.
• An outpatient surgery suite with between six and eight operating rooms to provide procedures that don’t require overnight stays.
• Two floors of space for outpatient mental health services and other areas of the hospital’s growing team of pediatric medical subspecialists.
The hospital also is considering adding a delivery suite for high-risk mothers expecting babies who will require surgery shortly after birth, Children’s President and Chief Executive Bill Considine said during a recent interview. Those newborns now are transported to the pediatric hospital from maternity units throughout the region.
“We know we can enhance what we do and how we do it,” he said. “This building is going to allow all that to happen. … It really is quite exciting to see what is playing out.”
Details not set
Project details — including the exact size and layout of the building — still are being finalized through a design process that includes feedback from hospital leaders, staff and patient families, said Grace Wakulchik, the hospital’s chief operating officer.
Two floors might be built now but left empty to accommodate future needs, Considine said.
Construction is expected to begin in the spring, with completion scheduled for 2015.
“We want this space to really be family-centered,” Considine said. “It needs to be designed through the eyes of a child.”
When the project is finished, the hospital’s main entrance will be on the Locust Street side of the campus, Considine said. An enclosed concourse will connect the tower to the existing building.
Construction has started on an adjacent six-level, 1,200-space parking deck, which also will house the transport department’s mobile intensive-care units.
The pediatric hospital is financing the project with $90 million to $100 million in borrowing through bonds and $50 million in hospital reserves, Considine said.
Children’s will kick off a public campaign soon to raise at least $50 million to pay for the rest of the project, he said. Between $12 million and $15 million worth of firm or potential commitments have been pledged during the campaign’s “quiet” phase.
The hospital also plans to raise $10 million to help Ronald McDonald House expand, Considine said.
Leaders said the pediatric hospital needs the additional space after a massive growth spurt during the past couple of decades.
“We’ve been challenged by our growth in clinical areas where we have not made capital investments in the last two decades,” Considine said.
In recent years, the emergency department on the main campus has been averaging more than 60,000 visits annually, he said. It was designed for 44,000 annual visits.
The neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) has been so busy that the hospital has had to get special permission from the Ohio Department of Health to open additional beds on a different floor more than 70 days this year, Wakulchik said.
Outpatient surgery performed on the main campus also has surged from 7,736 procedures in 2001 to 10,916 last year.
The hospital already is adding an operating room to its OR suite, which is used for outpatient and inpatient procedures, Wakulchik said.
“The growth that’s coming to the campus is really the growth of specialty services you can’t safely provide in a community hospital,” she said.
The vacated space in the existing building will be renovated to house inpatient rehabilitation, an expanded radiology department and doctor offices that will be moved from the outpatient Locust Street building, which will be torn down as part of a future construction phase, Wakulchik said.
The expansion will add hundreds of jobs to the hospital, which already has seen employment on the main campus grow from 1,977 in 1991 to 3,550, hospital officials said.
“This definitely has an economic impact on the community,” Considine said.
The hospital has been planning for the expansion for several years by buying adjacent property and businesses, including the Wally Waffle restaurant and Child Guidance & Family Solutions on Locust Street across from the existing building.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.