El Paso Times
Sunday, February 12, 2012
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With one snip of a large pair of scissors on Saturday, El Paso Children’s Hospital CEO Larry Duncan cut the ribbon to an overdue dream.
Duncan, with a large group of children by his side, cut the ribbon that symbolically opened the 122-bed, nonprofit facility, which he has billed as the first full-fledged children’s hospital in El Paso.
The El Paso Children’s Hospital, at 4845 Alameda Ave. on the University Medical Center campus, will open to patients on Tuesday.
On Saturday about 2,000 people showed up to witness the ribbon cutting and take a tour of the hospital.
“Next Tuesday will be the last day that El Paso can say it is the largest city in the country without a children’s hospital,” Duncan said. “We expected a large crowd, but we didn’t expect it to be this large.”
While adults checked out the equipment on each floor, children were able to eat snacks, drink milk or juice and have their faces painted by clowns.
“It’s thrilling just to see so many people here,” Duncan said. “It tells me that there is overwhelming support for a children’s hospital in El Paso.”
The hospital takes up six floors and about 225,000 square feet in the recently completed 10-story, $223 million tower next to the county-operated UMC.
The hospital will have almost 400 employees.
“Tens of thousands of man hours have gone into the preparation,” Duncan said. “We have a solid leadership team with children’s hospital experience.”
The next closest “dedicated pediatric hospital,” is more than 200 miles away, Duncan said.
“This will be a great insurance policy for El Paso children,” Duncan said. “They won’t have to be flown or driven out of town for care like they have in the past.”
Inside the hospital, each floor is designed for kids — having different colors, rounded corners and low chairs and countertops.
As soon as the elevator doors to each floor open, there are colorful designs to greet patients. And that will make the kids feel more at ease, said Sam Legate, board chairman.
“The main thing is for the kids to know that this is just for them,” Legate said. “From the rooms to the floors, you will see that this place is for kids.”
Each floor has a “pain-free” playroom for kids, where they can have fun without being poked or prodded.
Dr. Brad Fuhrman, physician in chief of the hospital, called the playrooms “refuge areas.”
“Children get very frightened in a hospital environment like this, so it’s important to make them comfortable,” Fuhrman said. “The trick is when they are sick, they usually don’t want to be somewhere strange, so we are trying to make them feel at home.”
Officials expect about 40 to 50 patients to begin using the hospital on Tuesday. The hospital’s patients will be newly born babies to 18-year-olds, with some exceptions.
In November 2007, voters approved the $120 million children’s hospital. But some said that El Paso Children’s Hospital has been a vision for nearly 30 years.
“We finally have a children’s hospital that is not only about health care but about families,” said Dr. J. Manuel de la Rosa, the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine and Texas Tech University Health Science Center’s founding dean. “You can feel the excitement from the clowns to the children. It’s electric.”
Aaron Bracamontes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6156.