URBANA – Dr. James Leonard remembers going to the Carle Foundation Hospital board a few years ago and talking about the need to add more space for sick kids and women having babies.
It didn't take long for the board to agree, he recalls.
"It was probably the shortest discussion on record about how to spend $50 million," said Leonard, the hospital's chief executive.
A major part of the hospital's $50 million expansion project – a five-story, 122,000-square-foot addition to Carle's north tower – is being unveiled at a public open house Sunday.
The five new floors were built to house new medical/surgical, pediatrics, obstetrics and neonatal intensive care units.
The new medical/surgical floor is already occupied by patients, and the new pediatrics unit will open later this month, hospital officials said. The new neonatal intensive care unit and a two-floor obstetrics services unit are both set to open in October.
Leonard said the hospital has used the expansion as an opportunity to raise the bar on its level of care and offer new amenities for patients.
Among those new features are larger rooms, more private rooms and secured doors at all areas of the hospital where there are children and babies among the patients, hospital officials said.
When all the new floors are open, 80 percent of the patient rooms at Carle will be private rooms, a feature important to today's patients, Leonard said.
Private rooms "won't always be available, but this will allow us to honor most requests," he added.
All the rooms in the new pediatrics and obstetrics units are private rooms, with the exception of one room in pediatrics with two beds that can be used when two siblings are in the hospital together, hospital officials said.
Some other features of the new pediatrics floor include a nature theme decor and cabinets hiding all the medical equipment – both intended to offer a soothing and nonthreatening environment for children, hospital officials said.
There's s also a bonus in those cabinets in the pediatric room – a TV, DVD player and PlayStation console.
Not to worry, parents – this is quasi-therapy. A recent study showed watching TV actually reduces children's pain ratings, says Chris Wetzel, manager of Carle's pediatrics unit.
"Now we can say it's therapy," she adds with a smile.
The new pediatrics department is also being stocked with new toys and DVDs purchased through an employee giving campaign, and all the old VCRs and videos in the current rooms will be donated to organizations that can use them, Wetzel said.
The new neonatal intensive care unit features a much more spacious area for sick and premature babies. It's four times the size of the old unit, and also now has a new room that can be used by parents for overnight stays before they take their babies home.
"Our families are with us for months, so it's nice to have space," said Donna Belcher, manager of the neonatal intensive care unit.
The new obstetrics floors have been furnished to offer both a calming environment and the comforts of a hotel, with such features as mini refrigerators, TVs and DVDs and sleeper sofas for visiting family members in the rooms.
Leonard said obstetrics and pediatrics departments aren't money-makers for a hospital, but they're heavily used departments at Carle and important to the community.
The number of births at Carle has grown steadily over recent years, from 1,659 in 1997 to 2,188 last year, hospital officials said.
Leonard said making the facilities larger and more contemporary benefits not only the patients but also the employees, and should help Carle recruit and retain staff.
Open house for newest addition set for Sunday
Carle Foundation Hospital will show off the five-story addition to its north tower at a public open house set for 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Visitors should gather in the hospital breezeway area.
Here's a rundown on what this new space at the hospital offers:
– Expansion of the 22-year-old north tower from six to 11 floors.
– New 7th floor: 40 semiprivate medical/surgical rooms with full baths, isolation rooms and special rooms designed for bariatric patients. (This floor will be excluded from public tour because it is already occupied by patients.)
– New 8th floor: Pediatrics unit with 16 private rooms with full baths, eight isolation and protective environment beds, family lounge and play/classroom areas.
– New 9th floor: 28-bed neonatal intensive care unit with family lounge, breastfeeding room and isolation room.
– New 10th and 11th floors: Labor and delivery and post-partum units with 26 private rooms with full baths, five private triage rooms, seven labor and delivery rooms with full baths, nursery with sibling viewing windows and Jacuzzi suite for laboring moms.