Breaking new ground at UI Children's Hospital


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What is now a mere hole in the ground has University of Iowa administrators, hospital executives, visitors, and state legislators anxiously awaiting the spring of 2016 and the anticipated arrival of the new UI Children’s Hospital.

But despite the opening date still three years away, hundreds of those individuals turned out to the UIHC Colloton patio to mingle and celebrate the new 14-story tower and its visitors on the afternoon of June 21 during an official groundbreaking ceremony.

The event was made official as UI President Sally Mason, state Board of Regents members and other UI officials each paired up with a child grasping a gold shovel who turned over new dirt.

The new $292 million Children’s Hospital will have 134 beds, and 55 beds will remain at the old facility, totaling 189 for patient use. University officials expect that the 480,000-square-foot facility will be a part of a new long-term, three-tower medical complex.

Construction got underway in the fall of 2012.

More than $26 million of the $50 million goal for private funding for the project has been raised by the UI Foundation.

During 2012 alone, the current Children’s Hospital treated nearly 56,000 patients from every county in Iowa and every state in the country.

“This is truly your hospital,” said Sheila Baldwin, assistant vice president for health-sciences development at the UI Foundation. The several hundred people in attendance included a number of current patients who took a break from their hospital surroundings to ring in the event.

“Breaking ground on a children’s hospital is a once in a many generation opportunity,” said Baldwin, who herself underwent cancer treatment at the UIHC 12 years ago. She thanked the hundreds of Children’s Hospital volunteers, their families, and state officials for their tireless efforts to date.

For Ottumwa resident Bryan LaRue, the event was bittersweet. The recent high-school graduate, who has depended on medical care at the UIHC for large portions of his life, said working as a member of the hospital’s Youth Advisory Council has not only given him the opportunity to work with the planning and design of the new facility, it has given him the opportunity to meet new friends.

He said the recent passing of Drew Wall has given him the opportunity to carry on the ideas and dreams of his friend into reality, while mixing in some of his own, which include a library, theater, and ice-cream parlor.

“Although we are sick during our stays at the hospital, we are still children, and we get bored,” he said. “We aim to prevent boredom.”

His parents, Robin and Doug Wall of Cedar Rapids, said today, children’s medicine is a full-family operation.

“Our son truly believed in this hospital,” Doug Wall said. “Each room is designed with the family in mind.”

Scott Turner, the Children’s Hospital executive director, said he couldn’t agree more. Everything from the 168 patient-room windows to the pullout couch to bed furniture and a top-floor rooftop area with panoramic views of Kinnick Stadium and Iowa City, are designed to take the “hospital feeling” out of the hospital.

Even paint color decisions have been scrutinized deeply.

“The kids didn’t think white was fun,” Turner said of the decision to designate different pastel colors in the new patient rooms based on its particular specialty unit.

UI President Sally Mason described the construction and eventual opening of the new facility with awe.

““Everything’s just astonishing,” she said. “They’re really going to deal with the children’s needs.”

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