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Akron Children’s expansion getting under way in 2013

12/13/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

This rendering shows what the expansion at Akron Children’s Hospital will look like when completed in 2015.
Rendering courtesy of Akron Children’s Hospital
Akron Children’s Hospital Emergency Department staff are shown above as they participate earlier this year in a weeklong workshop to tweak the design of the hospital’s new $180 million critical care building.
Using donated warehouse space in Green, Akron Children’s Hospital officials were able to experience what the proposed design of new facilities like the Emergency Department would be like.
Photos courtesy of Akron Children’s Hospital

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron Children’s Hospital officials said they plan to break ground in the spring for a substantial expansion to the hospital’s current campus.

Work is already under way on a new $20 million parking garage. Hospital officials said it’s possible for groundbreaking to take place at property at Locust and West Exchange streets in April for the new $180 million critical care tower.

Grace Wakulchik, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said when completed the new building will provide space for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), emergency department (ED) and ambulatory surgery unit.

The changes are due to increased demand for services and space at the hospital, Wakulchik said.

“Our NICU is overflowing,” she said. “There were 80 times in the past year that we had to put patients on another floor.”

Hospital staff and even former patients and their families have been involved in the effort to create the new spaces, Wakulchik said. In the past few months, groups have met at donated warehouse space in Green to work through life-size mock-ups of the new spaces and walked through scenarios such as a trauma case to see how the space works.

“We had parents come out with strollers and wheelchairs,” Wakulchik said. “We got a lot of feedback from families.”

The design process, called Integrated Lean Project Delivery, brought stakeholders such as doctors, nurses, parents, support staff, architects, engineers and consultants together from the start to design the new critical care tower. Hospital officials said the process would help reduce costly change orders once construction is under way and help them build the space to best meet the needs of patient families and the clinical teams.

For the NICU, the new space also will allow the hospital to dramatically change how it delivers care. In the current unit, several patients and their families share a pod, but the new space will feature private rooms, Wakulchik said.

“We are really passionate about family-centered care, and the pods do not support that,” she added.

Research shows that infants do better in the NICU when they and their families have more privacy, she said.

The new space will also help the hospital improve what it can do in its ED, which has been seeing more patients than it was designed to handle for many years, Wakulchik said. The hospital’s current space was designed for 44,000 visits a year but routinely reports more than 60,000.

The current facility doesn’t provide much space in examination rooms for the many specialists available to treat children, Wakulchik added.

The new ambulatory surgery unit will allow the hospital to expand the number of operating rooms for outpatient surgery, which is another growing area at the hospital.

The new building will feature the emergency department on the first floor, ambulatory surgery on the third floor and the NICU on the top two floors. Two floors will be left empty to accommodate future needs, Wakulchik said.

For the project, the hospital has acquired property that includes a retail building that formerly housed a Wally Waffle restaurant and the Child Guidance and Family Solutions building, which will be torn down in the coming months along with the hospital’s Seiberling Building and Children’s Home Care building. The new building will be connected to the hospital’s other buildings and the new parking deck, Wakulchik added. That block of Locust Street will be closed permanently, Wakulchik said.

In addition, plans call for the Ronald McDonald House of Akron to see an expansion that will more than double the number of beds there for family members of patients.

Wakulchik said the project is expected to take 24 months, which would allow the community to begin using the new facilities in 2015.

Once the three departments are moved into the new building, the hospital will use the vacated spaces for other needs, Wakulchik said. Plans have not been made yet, but she said the hospital would like to expand its inpatient rehabilitation and radiology departments.

Hospital officials said two-thirds of the cost of the project would be covered through public financing and internal reserves. The hospital also plans to engage in a capital campaign to raise $50 million for the critical care tower and $10 million for the Ronald McDonald House expansion starting in the new year.

Wakulchik also said the expansion will result in about 200 new jobs at the hospital, as well as about 400 jobs in the construction phase.

Additional information on the project can be found at www.akronchildrens.org.


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