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Sacred Heart Health System has announced plans to care for a new generation of children starting with construction in early 2016 of a new five-story Children’s Hospital, along with a major expansion to women’s services.

The Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart is the region’s only children’s hospital, serving families across Northwest Florida, South Alabama and South Georgia. The expanded Children’s Hospital will allow the hospital to provide care for more children, increase access to specialized pediatric and maternity care and consolidate pediatric services in one convenient location.

“Being the only children’s hospital in the region, we’ve had a growing need for more beds, especially for pediatric care,” said Mike Burke, Director of Public Relations for Sacred Heart. “There have been many times where we’ve been at capacity for patients, especially with regards to neonatal care. We needed to expand to take care of people.”

“Specialized healthcare for children and women has been in high demand, and the need is growing,” said Susan Davis, CEO of Sacred Heart Health System. “But even more than the number of patients we serve, we want to ensure the experience of those coming through our doors is as comfortable as possible and reflects the high-quality care they are receiving. Our new Children’s Hospital will strive to provide one consolidated healthcare home that is designed with a child’s needs in mind. This expansion also gives us the opportunity to build a maternity wing designed for a new generation of mothers and babies.”

The opening of the new Children’s Hospital is expected to add 100 Sacred Heart jobs for the local community. This growth of healthcare services will also enable recruitment of new pediatric specialists.

The expansion is currently planned in two phases. The first phase will focus on the new, five-story, 120,000 square-foot Children’s Hospital, which will be constructed in front of the existing Children’s Hospital, extending from the current pediatric transport ambulance bay into the parking lot. The new building will connect to the current Children’s Hospital by a ground-level, glass-covered walkway and will include:

  • Pediatric Emergency Department and Trauma Center, an expansion and relocation of Sacred Heart’s current Pediatric Emergency Department, which is now next to the adult Emergency Department and Trauma Center. Consolidating children’s emergency and inpatient services in one building will allow for more coordinated care and shorter discharge processes for children. Sacred Heart provides the region’s only pediatric trauma referral center.
  • Pediatric Surgery. With the construction of the new Children’s Hospital, Sacred Heart will add six, pediatric-dedicated operating rooms. This will consolidate all surgeries and procedures that require sedation into one area with a child-friendly environment designed to include family support, all with the goal of reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This expansion and relocation of Sacred Heart’s current NICU beds will enable The Children’s Hospital to care for more premature and critically ill infants from across Northwest Florida. In addition to offering the area’s only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, The Children’s Hospital maintains two specially equipped neonatal critical care transport ambulances for the transfer of premature and critically ill newborns from other hospitals across Northwest Florida to The Children’s Hospital. The NICU of the new Children’s Hospital will offer private rooms in its Level III unit, which includes the most critically ill babies.
  • Pediatric Oncology, with an expanded inpatient unit to provide specialized, inpatient care for children with cancer.
  • Extended stay/observation beds will represent a new inpatient unit for The Children’s Hospital, caring for children who aren’t yet ready to go home.

Phase 1 will also include an expansion to Sacred Heart’s Regional Perinatal Center, an inpatient unit for expectant mothers with a high-risk pregnancy. This expansion will be built off of the current perinatal wing and will allow space for more expectant mothers, many of whom stay in the unit for weeks or even months until their babies arrive. Sacred Heart is the region’s only Perinatal Center — one of only 11 in the state — and Northwest Florida’s only center designed for women with high-risk pregnancies.

Phase 1 of construction is scheduled for completion in late 2017. Because the expansion will take away from existing parking spaces, Sacred Heart will also construct a new surface lot or parking garage next to the current Ninth Avenue parking garage. Construction of the new parking lot will begin in early 2016 along with construction of the new Children’s Hospital.

Phase 2 will focus on renovating the third floor of the current Children’s Hospital, which will remain home to pediatric services such as the pediatric intensive care unit and child life playrooms. New services coming to the third floor include a pediatric inpatient rehabilitation gym and a pediatric satellite pharmacy.

Phase 2 will also include a complete renovation and expansion of Sacred Heart’s Maternity Center, the most preferred birthing center in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. The renovation of the Maternity Center will grow the number of beds for mothers needing specialized maternity care with an expansion to the hospital’s OB Emergency Care Center, postpartum beds and surgical suites for mothers needing Cesarean sections.

The cost of the project will not be finalized until architectural drawings are completed. Sacred Heart Health System and Ascension have committed $55 million and Sacred Heart will need to raise the remaining funds from community supporters in order to complete all phases of the expansion.

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