When officials at Dayton Children’s Hospital began designing their new eight-story patient tower, their concern wasn’t just with the critical-care patients who would occupy the tower.
The parents of those children played heavily into the plans.
“We’re different than an adult hospital,” Children’s president and CEO Deb Feldman said. “We’re thinking about the child and the parent.”
The Dayton Daily News was given an exclusive tour of the new tower, which will open to local officials on Monday, then to the general public on June 11.
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The $168 million investment in the new tower, which stands between Ohio 4 and Valley Street, adds to a remarkable building boom that in recent years has led to hospital construction projects from one end of the Miami Valley to the other.
Bryan Bucklew, president and chief executive of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, said the construction wouldn’t be happening if the hospitals in the area were racked with debt.
“They couldn’t do it if they were being run irresponsibly,” Bucklew said.
The new patient tower at Children’s stands 151 feet high and adds 260,000 square feet of space. But highlighting a trend that holds true across the region, the tower will add just 16 new beds, raising the hospital’s number of licensed beds from 155 to 171.
As with other hospital renovations, the emphasis is not on adding beds but giving patients and their families more privacy – and more space – along with other comforts of home, including wireless capability.
That trend holds true across the region, where there has been actually a one percent decrease in the number of beds over the last decade, Bucklew said. With renovations, double-bed rooms tend to become single-bed rooms as patients and families increasingly value privacy. In general, times of hospital stays have shrunk over the years.
Health care boom in Miami Valley
The Children’s Hospital tower is the latest in a series of regional hospital and health-care investments that are together strengthening some of the area’s biggest employers, while providing a regional economic boost.
The roster of local hospital construction projects is long: Miami Valley Hospital completed its own $135 million, 12-story downtown tower in 2010, and now MVH South Hospital in Centerville has launched a $60 million expansion. Kettering Health Network has opened a $53 million, 120,000-square-foot cancer center across from Kettering Medical Center. Good Samaritan North Health Center has announced a $40 million construction project. Four years ago, Grandview Medical Center completed its own $40 million, 70,000-square-foot renovation and expansion.
South of Dayton, Christ Hospital Medical Center, Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital, Atrium Medical Center and others have either announced or launched projects.
Not counting new construction, but simply in daily operations, Dayton-area hospitals represent an $8.1 billion annual economic impact, Bucklew said.
That’s bigger than Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio’s largest single-site employer, Bucklew said.
Many of the facilities being updated are a half-century old — including Grandview and Dayton Children’s — and need renewing, Bucklew said.
But the work also signals economic vibrancy, he said.
“They couldn’t do that if they had a lot of debt,” Bucklew said.
‘We’re different than an adult hospital’
Children’s tower is focused on sicker, more critical children who require longer stays, Feldman said.
And the tower accommodates the technology those patients need, said Feldman and Cindy Burger, who is the hospital’s vice president for patient and family experience. The new tower features 15-foot room ceilings built to support wireless technology and hands-free communication systems. In an interview, Burger described new nurse-call systems and monitoring systems that allow nurses to know when children are trying to get out of their beds or need quick attention.
Feldman and Burger said several different patient room and restroom mock-ups were created for employees, parents and even children to evaluate, with architects considering their input in design.
It was critical to design bedrooms and bathrooms that were easy for tired parents and sick children to navigate, Feldman said.
Health care costs
Construction work began in August 2014. Jim Lupidi — project manager for Danis, the 101-year-old Miami Twp.-based company that oversaw the project — has enjoyed seeing the tower come together.
“It’s the best part of my job,” Lupidi said. “I love that the most.”
Asked what the tower means for local health care costs, hospital leaders insisted that Dayton Children’s has the lowest child-care costs in Ohio. A capital campaign to support the tower drew more than $25 million in local support.
“We are the most cost-efficient children’s hospital in the state,” Feldman said.
The North Dayton hospital’s previous facilities had aged beyond their useful life, Feldman said. To continue operating, sweeping renewal of the campus was needed.
Most cities the size of Dayton don’t have a children’s hospital, she and Burger said. To remain “the place for our families to come,” the tower had to be built, Feldman said.
“We couldn’t add the technology that health care absolutely now utilizes,” she said. “Literally, the HVAC, plumbing, all of that, the infrastructure that supports the buildings and the environment had just aged beyond our ability to maintain it at a high-quality level.”
Of the tower’s $168 million investment, about $120 million was spent on construction and $101.6 million of that was spent with local businesses, Burger said. The tower required 506,000 man-hours of work for contractors, almost all of that local, she said.
Families will now have all private rooms. Few parents let their children spend the night in a hospital alone, so that was seen as a necessity, hospital leaders said.
New neonatal and pediatric intensive care units will be part of the tower, as will a new center devoted to treating children facing cancer and blood disorders.
Also added are new outdoor play areas for children strong enough to play, exercise areas for family members, medicine areas and offices located so that staff won’t have to walk as far. Floor design alone, with an emphasis on efficiency, took two years, Burger said.
The hospital is the only Level II pediatric trauma center in the region.
“We exist so that children who need pediatric care can stay close to home,” Feldman said. “Children who need that the most are the most critically ill and injured.”