UI Children's Hospital Event Celebrates Plans For $292 Million Facility

By Diane Heldt and Forrest Saunders, Reporters

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Today it's a very large hole in the ground, but in three years, it will be home to the new University of Iowa Children's Hospital.

Several hundred hospital and university officials, current and former patients and their families and state leaders gathered Friday to celebrate that fact.

"Our Children's Hospital is truly for the children of Iowa," said Alivea Carnahan, a 14-year-old from Amana who spent several weeks in the Burn Treatment Center in 2009.

Construction work started last fall on the new $292 million UI Children's Hospital, but a ceremonial groundbreaking celebration was held Friday to mark progress on the facility, which be 480,000 gross square feet in new construction and contain 14 floors -- 12 above ground and two below.

The Children's Hospital is now a "hospital within a hospital" located throughout UI Hospitals and Clinics, but the new facility will be a dedicated hospital for pediatric patients and their families. Each patient room is designed with young patients in mind -- with space for homework or activities and gathering with family members -- several patients said Friday.

Lounging space and fun areas in the hospital will "aim to prevent boredom" among young patients, said Bryan LaRue, an 18-year-old from Ottumwa who has been a Children's Hospital patient throughout his life.

Many of the current and former patients and their family members who spoke Friday also serve on various planning committees to give input into the design and amenities of the hospital. The Children's Hospital last year cared for nearly 56,000 patients from every county in Iowa and every state in the country.

Doug Wall, a Cedar Rapids father whose son, Drew, was treated at Children's Hospital, said providing pediatric health care is very different than providing adult care, and the new hospital will address those needs.

"Caring for the sick child is very much a family affair," he said, noting he and his wife spent more than 250 nights at the hospital with their son, who passed away in November. "Each room is designed with the family in mind."

The new hospital is slated for completion in spring 2016. More than $26 million of the $50 million goal for private funding toward the project has been raised by the UI Foundation.
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