Fairview plans new pediatric unit

Karlee Weinmann

Fairview Health Services announced plans Wednesday to construct a new location for the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital to increase efficiency and comfort.

One aspect of the plan includes building a new pediatric unit on Fairview’s Riverside campus and is expected to cost $175 million and be funded by Fairview.

Pediatric services are divided between the University campus and the Riverside campus, while the University campus facility is also operating within a larger hospital environment, not fully distinguished from adult services.

Dr. Roby Thompson, associate dean for clinical affairs of the medical school and chief executive officer for University of Minnesota Physicians, said the new

facility will allow for consolidation of services resulting in streamlined, more focused care.

“The advantage of consolidation is that it cuts down the operating costs for the hospital,” he said. “Things are much more efficient if (the pediatric services) are located at one site.”

Officials began hospital updating talks in 2000 and have advanced to a plan that will

update services and the environments within several facilities, according to Dr. Gordon Alexander, president of the University Academic Medical Center Hospital and Board of Regents representative to the Fairview system’s board of directors.

“We know over the next 10 years we have to regenerate the entire enterprise … We know, for instance, the clinics need to be replaced,” he said. “We knew we’d be starting with the children.”

Last summer, representatives from Allina, Fairview and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota discussed merging into one children’s facility. Independent consultation on the proposed project, though, determined such a plan would not be financially feasible.

The addition to the Riverside campus is part of a budgeted allowance by Fairview.

“It’s basically built on our current capacity, what we’ve generated historically and now. Every year, some of the money you make goes to pay for this,” Alexander said.

There will likely be a bond offering to compensate for some of the cost, and Alexander said he hopes philanthropists will contribute to the cause as well.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for people to invest in the future,” he said.

The new pediatric unit, slated to open in 2010, will allow for roughly the same patient occupancy as currently available, but will combine the capacity of the two locations.

The 107 medical or surgical beds now housed on the University campus will be moved to the Riverside campus, bringing the total beds available at the new site to 207.

Alexander said emphasized care will include cardiovascular services, mental illness treatment, high-end surgery and cancer surgery and treatment.

Blood, marrow and solid organ transplants and behavioral services will be among the most unique offerings from the hospital, which will also provide basic care for patients with common ailments like asthma.

“In general, our emphasis has been on the types of care that other places don’t provide,” Alexander said. “Operating rooms, imaging and the way we handle patients on the floor will be the big developments.”

Four of 10 operating rooms will be new, equipped with advanced technological tools to aid in surgical procedures.

Design will also be a state-of-the-art element for the new facility.

Past donations have been used to remodel existing children’s rooms to add high-tech capabilities.

“Some of these kids are (hospitalized) for weeks or even months. It’s really critical that they have the ability to control whatever they can in their environment,” Alexander said.

The consolidation is not expected to result in job cuts and Frank Cerra, senior vice president for health sciences at the University, said he anticipates growth.

“This complements the University of Minnesota Medical School’s plans to expand faculty and clinical service lines,” he said in a news release.

Thompson said he sees promise in the new facility as well.

“Having a high-quality clinical environment will be much more attractive, which will make the experience for medical students even better than it ever has been,” he said.

Genetics, cell biology and development senior Kelsey Bergstrom, a volunteer for Fairview’s pediatric unit, said that since pediatric care is one of her main interests, she looks forward to the project’s completion.

“A hospital just for children would be a really great addition for Fairview,” she said.

Construction on the pediatric center is set to begin this year.