Thursday, February 18, was a clear and crisp winter morning in Baton Rouge and a fine day for making medical history on behalf of the children of Louisiana.
More than 600 guests gathered under a vivid blue sky in a field near Interstate 10 between Essen Lane and Bluebonnet Boulevard that will soon be abuzz with activity. Our Lady of the Lake team members, physicians, parents and patients and Louisiana residents were in attendance.
The Very Rev. Bishop Robert Muench, Bishop of Baton Rouge; Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden; and other leaders celebrated the groundbreaking of the future freestanding Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, the first new facility of its kind in Louisiana in more than 40 years.
Under one roof will be assembled top pediatricians, specialists and sub- specialists in a state-of-the-art facility that will expand and improve the range and quality of healthcare for children.
Designed from the ground up with children in mind, the freestanding children’s hospital will be a place of comfort, healing, and care that embraces the latest in technology as well as Our Lady of the Lake’s commitment to provide the best care possible.
Part of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, the $235 million facility will serve all Louisiana children. It will open its doors in late 2018 with 80 inpatient beds and the capacity to grow to 130.
“With this new facility, we can continue to grow the resources for ongoing education for children to create lifestyle changes and to build healthy habits to break the risk cycles of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity,” said Shaun Kemmerly, MD, chief medical officer of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.
For many Louisiana families, a free-standing children’s hospital will mean not having to travel far away to receive the most complex of care.
Parents Kelli and Blake Davis already recognize the benefit of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital and the statewide network it’s building.
The Davis's son, Hudson, has a liver condition that requires care and treatment of a gastroenterologist. Hudson sees an Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital gastroenterologist at a satellite GI clinic in Monroe; sister clinics are operating in Lafayette, Gonzales and Hammond.
The network, which ensures consistent treatment and protocols, will continue to grow so that patients around the state can receive care in their own communities or in Baton Rouge when necessary.
“I feel like when we go, we get answers; they know what’s happening, and we get the best care,” Kelli Davis said. “It’s just a wonderful place to have your child cared for.”
Families of patients have played a vital role in the design and feel of the freestanding campus. The Family Advisory Council, composed of parents of patients, meets regularly to provide input and advice on important decisions about not only the design of the freestanding facility, but also about ongoing operations. These families understand the unique challenges illnesses pose for children and their families, and they can help improve other families' experiences.
For example, every patient room has a whiteboard where staff write important information shared by the various shifts. The Family Advisory Council helped redesign the whiteboard format so it includes information parents want to know: the doctor’s name, medications their child will take that day, and a place to write questions they have for the medical team.
The freestanding hospital truly embraces Louisiana in theme, color palette, and even decorative mascots used for wayfinding purposes and a celebration of Louisiana’s natural beauty. Louisiana’s outdoors are honored in the interior design, along with the state’s rich animal and aquatic life. “The hospital will be child-friendly without being childish,” said Dr. Kemmerly. Each of the new facility’s six floors will have a playroom. One entire floor will be dedicated to treating children with cancer and blood-related illnesses. Our St. Jude Affiliate Clinic will provide outpatient and inpatient treatment, and continue working closely with the renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
The freestanding children's hospital also will have the capacity to treat more children in the emergency department and intensive care unit. Next door to the new facility and connected on the first two floors, there will be a four-story, 95,000-square-foot medical office building where pediatric specialists will have clinics with quick and convenient access to the hospital itself.
“The freestanding children's hospital will raise the level of care for all children because it will attract more of the best and brightest medical students and physicians in training. Access to quality care is top priority,” said Dr. Kemmerly.
“Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital currently has more than 70 pediatric medical subspecialists providing care in about 25 different medical specialties including gastroenterology, pediatric surgery, pulmonology, hematology/oncology and many others,” said Nicole Telhiard, vice president of patient care services for Our Lady of the Lake and administrator for the children’s hospital. “This new hospital will help us attract more subspecialists and medical specialties, increasing our capabilities to offer advanced medical care and allowing more children to receive excellent care close to home.”
The freestanding children’s hospital will draw the best pediatric physicians in their fields who often prefer to practice in a facility that functions solely for children and does not compete for resources with adult programs.
“It’s a great environment for pediatric specialists who want to have a career here," says Dr. Kemmerly. "We can recruit them to the area and they’ll want to stay in the state of Louisiana.”
Construction is under way, but there is still much work to do in support of the project, appropriately named “Let’s Build Amazing.”
“To date we have raised more than half of our initial goal of $50 million, but fundraising is ongoing and will not stop once we reach our goal,” said John Paul Funes, president, Our Lady of the Lake Foundation. “Philanthropy plays an important role in most children’s hospitals and allows hospitals to purchase life-saving equipment, invest in programs that benefit the health and wellness of all patients, and purchase unique and special items that help make the hospital and its treatments and procedures less scary for patients.”
If you’d like to learn more about the project, visit www.letsbuildamazing.com.
If you’d like to donate to the building of this facility, you can donate online at www.letsbuildamazing.com. Your support is essential to the success of this project and we know we can’t do it without community and healthcare advocates like you walking this journey with us.