Construction starts on $230M Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital that ‘will change the lives of Louisiana’s children’

By Ted Griggs, The Advocate

A $230 million Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital and medical office being built in Baton Rouge will be the anchor for a statewide pediatric network.

 That was the message John Finan, president and chief executive officer of Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, delivered Thursday to about 500 people attending a groundbreaking ceremony. The system is the parent company of the Children’s Hospital and Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

In addition to Baton Rouge, Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital Pediatric Specialty clinics are located in Hammond, Gonzales, Layfette, and Monroe.

Lake CEO Scott Wester said it took more than a decade of planning — refining those plans repeatedly, working to control costs and saving money — to create the first stand-alone children’s hospital the state has seen in more than 40 years.

The new facility will change the lives of Louisiana’s children, Wester said. The health system’s goal for the hospital is to advance care and research for children by recruiting more pediatric specialists, continuing to grow the Lake’s pediatric residency program and capitalizing on strategic partnerships like the one it has with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital now operates as a hospital inside Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. Each year, the children’s hospital provides care to about 100,000 patients from Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and elsewhere.

The new 350,000-square-foot, six-floor hospital will open in late 2018 with 80 inpatient beds and the potential to expand to 130. It will have a pediatric emergency room; a surgical unit; a dedicated hematology/oncology unit that will serve inpatients and outpatients; and playrooms on every floor.

The four-story office building will have 95,000 square feet of space, primarily for pediatric medical specialists.

The facilities will be built on 66 acres parallel to Interstate 10 between Essen Lane and Bluebonnet Boulevard near Our Lady of the Lake’s main campus. One floor will be “shelled” to provide room for future expansion.

One floor of the new children’s hospital will be dedicated to the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic and inpatient hematology/oncology services, including chemotherapy. The Lake is one of St. Jude’s seven affiliates.

The Lake is using funds from donations and reserves for the hospital and also expects to borrow money by issuing bonds for the project.

Donors are expected to provide a major portion of the funding for the new children’s hospital.

Spokeswoman Kelly Zimmerman said philanthropy is “absolutely critical” for capital facilities and ongoing pediatric programs and operations.

So far, about half of the initial $50 million fundraising goal has been met, according to John Paul Funes, president of Our Lady of the Lake Foundation. The donations help pay for equipment, health and wellness programs for patients and “unique and special items” that make the hospital, treatments and procedures less scary for patients.

The children’s hospital now has about 60 pediatric medical subspecialists providing care in about 20 medical specialties, including gastroenterology, pediatric surgery and pulmonology and hematology/oncology, said Nicole Telhiard, vice president of patient care services, Our Lady of the Lake, and administrator, Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. “This new hospital will help us attract more subspecialists and medical specialties, increasing our capabilities to offer advanced medical care and allowing more children to receive excellent care close to home,” she said.