Children’s Hospital New Orleans now serves as one of the country’s top destinations for pediatric care, following the completion of a $300 million campus expansion project.
The hospital’s 17-acre campus includes more than 230,000 square feet of new clinical care space, a 57,000 square foot pediatric surgery center, a 35,000 square foot Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and a 600-vehicle garage, among other changes. There is also a new 51-bed Behavioral Health Center that houses the only psychiatric program in the Gulf Coast region that is exclusively dedicated to the mental health needs of children and adolescents in crisis.
“The completion of our $300 million campus expansion marks a new day for child health in Louisiana,” said John R. Nickens IV, President and CEO of Children’s Hospital New Orleans. “What’s most exciting is what this next chapter means for the children and families we serve. Together, with our academic partners at LSU Health New Orleans and Tulane University School of Medicine, we are poised to take on the health challenges our kids and communities are facing by offering the highest level of pediatric care, right here in Louisiana.”
Jonathan Brouk, Children’s Hospital New Orleans Chief Operating Officer, said one of the biggest themes of the design was a focus on both patients and families.
“Parents and caregivers are such an integral part of healing in pediatric care, so it was important to design very family-friendly spaces,” he said. “The hospital had evolved organically, but this was the first time we thought about what was needed globally for the entire organization and the families we serve.”
Brouk said another main goal was to enhance spaces that support some of Children’s Hospital New Orleans’ signature programs. That resulted in the construction of 12 new operating rooms with state-of-the-art technology, an expanded treatment area for burn patients, dedicated rooms for minimally invasive procedures, and the new 28-bed cardiac ICU. Additional enhancements include an all-new, expanded Emergency Department with two dedicated trauma rooms and an eight room behavioral health pod.
“We’ve recently attested to becoming a Level Two pediatric trauma center, so kids will begin to come directly here after severe accidents. We wanted to build operating rooms that could support that,” Brouk said. “Our burn services will be a huge asset to Louisiana families because their closest options have previously been Galveston or Atlanta. And, our heart center is one of our signature programs. It’s incredibly complex work and we needed to make sure they had proper resources and space.”
Brouk said he is also proud of the new Comprehensive Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, which will expand the hospital’s nationally recognized hematology and oncology program. Children’s Hospital is the only accredited pediatric facility in the state, with the largest and most experienced group of pediatric cancer specialists in the region.
“Previously, we had inpatient and outpatient hematology oncology services on different sides of the hospital, so a child and their family would sometimes have to go to two totally separate parts of the building,” Brouk said. “Now, it’s all in one place, so the family can stay in one environment.”
The renovations have also led to a different aesthetic throughout campus, one that emphasizes total wellness. The themes of nature and music can be seen and felt throughout the property. There are spaces for meditation, recessed seating for quiet reflection or reading and custom-made artwork by local artists.
“The design features expansive glass, which allows for lots of natural light, and spacious open areas that are part of the care experience,” said Brandon Kristol, the hospital’s director of operations and construction project manager. “When patients are recovering, we don’t want them to feel like they are in isolation all the time.”
Kristol said he is especially pleased with the new Child Life Center, which includes playrooms where patients can spend time with their siblings and engage in activities like games or movie showings, just as if they were at home. There is also a family resource center, which Kristol said is similar to a business center and allows parents to work remotely or handle other obligations as necessary, with easy access to hospital support services.
“We wanted to create spaces for families where things can still feel somewhat normal even during a hard time,” he explained.
To help families navigate the sprawling campus, Kristol said there are three fully-staffed entrances for patients with different needs. There is a main entrance, one near the lower pavilion that leads to specialty outpatient clinics and a third at the emergency room.
“When we think of New Orleans, we think of a place known for its hospitality. We want patients and families to have that same experience in our hospital,” Kristol said. “Our team is dedicated to helping patients and families navigate the campus and do a warm hand-off to the correct person in the department they need.”
Although the project is complete, Brouk said there are still some other new initiatives on the way. A historic building on the hospital campus is currently being refurbished and turned into a Ronald McDonald House with 22 suites for families of patients. And, in partnership with the Kids Join The Fight nonprofit, Children’s Hospital New Orleans will build a $10 million child enrichment center on campus, which will be similar to an interactive children’s museum.
“I think the investment in this campus is one of New Orleans’ great economic development stories of the last few years,” Brouk said. “We’ve recruited about 100 top physicians from around the country, in large part because of the resources we provide. We have great academic partnerships. We’ve accomplished a lot, but in some ways, we feel like we are just beginning – all with a vision to improve the health of the next generation.”