RALEIGH — In the latest addition to the Triangle's hospital building boom, WakeMed is christening a new, $99 million tower Sunday that houses Raleigh's first children's hospital.
The four-story building, which also adds 41 rooms for cardiovascular care and 20 cardiac intensive care beds, alters the hospital's entire traffic flow both inside and outside its New Bern Avenue campus. The old parking garage in the middle of the campus is gone - replaced by a new garage directly across from the addition. Visitors will enter the new building's airy lobby and then connect through windowed corridors to the older sections.
A garden and courtyard bridge the gaps between the old units and the new.
"We've tried to create an ambience that's more soothing," said Betsy Gaskins-McClaine, vice president of heart and vascular services. "You know you're in a hospital, but it can still be a place that's soothing from the point of entry while you're dealing with complex situations."
The new wards are slated to open in June, but the hospital is holding a public open house from 1-5 p.m Sunday.
WakeMed's expansion is the latest in a string of major construction projects at area hospitals. Last year, UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill opened a $207 million cancer center and announced plans to build a new hospital in Hillsborough. And Duke University Medical Center is in the midst of a $700 million building campaign that will add a cancer center and main hospital pavilion.
Also, both Rex Healthcare and WakeMed have opened satellite centers to move services closer to communities.
With its most recent expansion at its main Raleigh campus, WakeMed adds the county's first children's hospital on the fourth floor of the new tower. The unit includes large rooms for pediatric intensive care, observation and general inpatient care.
Its $8.5 million tab was entirely met through donations from private corporations and individuals - a first for the hospital.
Decor includes fanciful lighting that looks like balloons, decorative glass windows and calming shades of blue, green and brown.
Dr. Mark Piehl, a pediatrician and medical director of the children's hospital, said the rooms are large enough to accommodate family members, and even allow overnight stays on fold-out couches. Video games and computer access are available in every room.
For doctors and nurses, the rooms are equipped with portable monitors that can go with patients when they need procedures or treatments elsewhere in the hospital. Computerized nurses stations are outside each door.
"This is really exciting stuff," Piehl said. "This is the beginning of an ultimately bigger operation for children."
The second and third floors of the new building will handle heart patients.
Gaskins-McClaine said the new heart ward is designed to help doctors and nurses improve the accuracy and speed of care, with every room exactly the same so caregivers don't waste time searching for supplies and equipment.
In addition, the rooms are larger and provide space for families, even in intensive care.
The new floors connect directly to the existing heart center and a hotel the hospital runs for people from outside the county. With the addition, WakeMed will be able to handle 159 cardiovascular patients and another 58 who need cardiac intensive care.
Gaskins-McClaine said the extra capacity is needed immediately.
"We have a growing and aging population," she said. "And while we want everyone to stay healthy, there is a growing demand."
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