childrens_4More than 300 Children’s Hospital Colorado staff, patients and community leaders attended a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 16 to mark the official start of construction on Colorado Springs’ first free-standing hospital specializing in pediatric care.

The five-level facility will be constructed on UCHealth’s Memorial Hospital North campus, between Briargate Parkway and N. Union Boulevard, and include a neonatal intensive care unit, a pediatric intensive care unit, a designated space for behavioral health treatment, and the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Construction on the 294,000-square-foot building will begin the first week of December and completion is expected in late 2018.

“The groundbreaking ceremony demonstrates our commitment to construction in the near future,” said Greg Raymond, regional vice president of Children’s for southern Colorado. “It was an opportunity to pause and recognize the investment of team members, developing plans and our community partners who’ve supported the project. It was an opportunity to celebrate our success to date.”

The first phase of the $154 million project — headed by GE Johnson Construction Company — is to build an in-patient facility with an emergency department, establishing operating rooms and patient beds, Raymond said. The hospital will feature 98 patient rooms.

“We want to ensure we build adequate shell space for growth,” he said. “We’ll evaluate enhancements to the facility to bring more capacities — building out shell space when volumes justify it.”

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The new hospital has been a work-in-progress for the last 15 years, serving local patients through outpatient clinics, according to Raymond. Minor modifications have been made along the way but would be characterized as “non-clinical,” he said.

“We’ve been good stewards of our resources and strategically invested our funds in what will have the biggest impact, evaluating what the community truly needs,” Raymond said.

The hospital will also include a sleep study lab with at least three rooms (and potentially up to five) for testing, depending on patient needs, Raymond said.

“Pediatric sleep studies are in high demand. Children in southern Colorado have to drive to Denver and are on a waiting list for months,” he said. “There are a variety of uses for sleep studies and it’s a significant need that doesn’t exist in the community. We’re excited to keep kids local for the studies.”

And it’s not just another hospital, he said, rather designed to meet children’s special needs, allowing  them to recover and attain a normal life.

“The design elements and expertise we recruit is specific and we’re excited to bring a level of specialization to this community with a focus to get kids back at home and in school, where they should be — not in a hospital.”

Children’s Hospital Colorado has 550 team members in its southern region, serving at four locations, primarily at Memorial Hospital Central.

“Some will transfer but we will also be doing significant hiring, adding new team members to our hospital operations,” Raymond said.

And Raymond has a personal investment in the new facility — he said his daughter needed a service not provided in Colorado Springs and had to travel to Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver for treatment.

“I know the strain families feel trying to manage life in Colorado Springs and travel to Denver for their child to receive care,” he said.

Children’s Hospital Colorado patients participated in the groundbreaking ceremony, sharing their stories, playing music, putting shovels in the dirt and introducing Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.

“Hearing how they’ve benefited from the hospital is really valuable and motivating,” Raymond said. ““Our focus with the new facility is, ‘How do we provide the highest level of care closest to home and support services they need to be safe and well?’”