Midtown Medical Center in Columbus has launched a $5.25 million modernization of its Children's Hospital, part of a larger $35 million project that also will expand and improve its neonatal intensive care unit and obstetrics facilities.
"It's not just a construction project for us by any stretch," said Ryan Chandler, chief executive officer of Midtown Medical Center, the flagship hospital owned and operated by Columbus Regional Health.
"When you start talking about babies, when you start talking about pediatric patients, this is a special patient population and, boy, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can," he said.
It's that "passion and commitment," Chandler said, that is the impetus of the work that has just gotten underway on the Children's Hospital, which should be completed in late December. The newly outfitted space on the fifth floor of Midtown Medical Center, 710 Center St., should be inhabited by the third week of January.
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Columbus Regional and Midtown Medical Center also are now in the process of seeking approval for a certificate of need to move ahead with construction on Midtown's neonatal intensive care unit and the obstetrics area.
Chandler said he expects approval to come by late September from the Georgia Department of Community Health. Construction on that phase of the project would begin in October, with work taking until February 2016 to complete.
"This is not new space," the CEO said. "But yet we're going back and totally wiping clean and recreating space within the hospital."
Midtown Medical Center treated more than 1,200 patients combined last year in its fifth-floor Children's Hospital in-patient unit and pediatric intensive care unit, Chandler said. Its neonatal ICU had 563 admissions in the last fiscal year. The hospital serves a 21-county region in Georgia, as well as portions of east central Alabama.
"We've been serving that patient population for a long, long time," he said, explaining pediatricians in the area, along with specialists who treat children, have wanted new and updated facilities for many years.
Aside from population growth in the region, and the general need to remodel and add extra services and amenities for patients, Chandler said a goal is to keep pediatric patients from having to be transferred out of Columbus to other hospitals -- such as in Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala. -- to receive specialized care and treatment.
To that end, he said, over the last 18 months Midtown Medical Center has added or recruited pediatric physician specialists in critical care, neurology, hematology/oncology, gastroenterology, cardiology, allergy, endocrinology, ophthalmology and autism.
"We are growing in terms of not only volumes in pediatric patients, but also in terms of breadth and depth of services for that population, for those pediatric patients," Chandler said.
It was about 14 months ago that Midtown Medical Center opened up a new Pediatric Emergency Department, the first $3 million phase of the overall project that continues with the Children's Hospital overhaul.
That 5,080-square-foot facility, adjacent to the Midtown's main Emergency and Trauma Center, has seven treatment rooms with cardiac monitors, one exam room and equipment scaled down for treating kids of various ages.
"We had great expectations when that program opened up," Chandler said. "It has been more successful than anyone imagined. In fact, we saw well over 22,000 children in our first year of operation."
Midtown Medical Center received its certificate of need for the Children's Hospital work last December. Birmingham, Ala.-based Robins & Morton Group is the general contractor overseeing the construction.
When that 25,700-square-foot phase is completed, the pediatric hospital's 20 in-patient rooms will all be private, larger and able to accommodate families wishing to spend longer periods of time with their hospitalized loved ones.
"You can imagine if your child is in the hospital, you may very well want to spend the night with your child," Chandler said.
The current phase also includes a new five-bed pediatric intensive care unit with advanced clinical and security technology, as well as five observation, or intermediate care, beds for children ill or injured, but not necessarily needing admission to the hospital.
The pediatric ICU rooms also will be equipped so that doctors can perform minor procedures on the spot, rather than moving young patients to an operating or procedure room off of the Children's Hospital floor.
Other amenities, geared toward family members of patients, will include comfortable seating and sleep areas, shower facilities, clothing washers and dryers, and a business center.
Chandler said Midtown Medical Center consulted its family advisory council -- including past patients and their family members -- to get a feel for what needs to be provided to make visits and longer stays easier physically and emotionally.
The future phase of the project that includes a major makeover of the neonatal intensive care unit and obstetrics department will comprise nearly 70,000 square feet of space.
It includes enlarging the ICU from 28 to 34 all-private, family-sized rooms rather than the current open-bay layout. A 12-bed special care nursery also will be converted to private rooms.
The well-baby nursery will be relocated to a more central area on the fourth floor, while the C-section and recovery suite renovation will feature enlarged operating rooms.
Renovation of the labor-delivery-recovery suite area, as well as the 31-bed postpartum suite area, will primarily be giving them new looks, including flooring, furniture and wall coverings.
"We've gone through many iterations of planning to construct this new hospital," Chandler said. "We are more than excited to be well on our way to opening up a brand new Children's Hospital right here inside Midtown Medical Center."
Midtown Medical Center's major upgrade of its Children's Hospital, neonatal ICU and obstetrics areas comes with St. Francis Hospital in Columbus launching baby-delivery service last fall inside its new Women's Hospital.
St. Francis had idled its baby service in 1981 after a three-decade run but reopened it as part of a $110 million expansion project that also includes a new Heart Hospital. Heart care and treatment is its longtime specialty.