By NASH NUNNERY
Easing the anxiety of a hospital stay for children – and their parents – while providing the absolute best care available has always been the hallmark for Children’s of Mississippi’s Batson Children’s Hospital.
The only medical facility in Mississippi devoted exclusively to the care of children and adolescents, Batson will be getting a much-needed facelift with the addition of a seven story, state-of-the-art 340,000-square-foot pediatrics tower. The new structure will house a neonatal intensive care unit with private rooms, surgical suites and an imaging center designed specifically for children.
The Children’s Heart Center, representing UMMC’s pediatric cardiovascular program, will also call the new building home.
Site work on the $180 million tower, located adjacent to Batson on the campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, began the first week of January. The building is expected to be completed August 2020.
Brasfield & Gorrie is the general contractor for the project.
“We are very excited about the new pediatrics tower, something we’ve been thinking about and planning for years,” said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi. “The needs are significant and I cannot measure what it’s going to mean for our patients and staff.”
Batson Children’s Hospital averages 9,000 admissions annually, with patients coming from all 82 counties in Mississippi to receive medical care for everything from childhood illnesses to life-threatening trauma cases.
Additionally, the hospital provides care in more than 30 specialty areas, including newborn medicine, pediatric cardiology, neurology and surgery. It houses the state’s only pediatric intensive care unit and emergency department along with Mississippi’s only pediatric treatment programs for cancer, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia and congenital heart defects.
Giesecke says the new tower and its components will create a much improved environment for patients – and less waiting.
“It’s going to give kids more access to services available only to them,” he said. “In the past, some patients have had to wait up to a month for imaging or diagnostics. Wait times will be eliminated with the construction of the pediatrics tower.”
According to Giesecke, the new wing will accommodate 30-40 percent more outpatient treatments, 40 percent more surgeries and double the access to imaging services.
The new pediatrics addition also will allow Mississippi to “get on par with other states” when it comes to providing care to children, he said.
“We are way behind. You can’t retain and recruit physicians and staff without adequate facilities,” Giesecke said. “The physicians were frustrated with being cramped, as were the patients and their parents. The new facility will bring us up to speed with other states.”
Children’s of Mississippi officials anticipate recruiting 30-40 new physicians in the next five years. At a minimum, about 50-75 staff positions, not including doctors, would be added after construction.
Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the school of medicine, says Batson is in need of facilities to match the quality of care provided by its staff.
“The time has come,” she said, “for a transformation.”
In the past, pediatric surgery shared surgical facilities with UMMC. This required young patients to be transported across campus for their surgical needs, which meant being separated from their families during procedures and pre- and post-operative periods.
No more, says Giesecke.
“The main component we have built into the design of the new tower is fluidity,” he said. “Everything will be easily connected and will flow very well.”
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