Akron Children’s Hospital Medical Center — growing again

Akron Children’s Hospital Medical Center is growing again — this time in its own backyard. Since 1979, the children’s hospital has expanded from one location to 78, stretching from Norwalk east to Youngstown and south to Mansfield; from 900 employees to more than 4,000.

AKRON, Ohio — Akron Children’s Hospital Medical Center is growing again — this time in its own backyard.

The children’s hospital – now in 78 locations throughout Northeast Ohio, from specialists’ offices to pediatric emergency rooms – expanded last year in Boardman, among other locations. In 2010, the expansion will be in Akron.

“Our emergency room — one of the busiest emergency rooms in the country – is in need of modernization or replacement,” said William Considine, who recently celebrated 30 years as president and chief executive of the children’s hospital. “We’re doing more [pediatric] surgery than anybody in Northeast Ohio. We’re going to need some additional operating rooms.”

Akron Children’s has acquired adjacent property so it can expand its pediatric emergency facilities. “Our neonatal ER unit, it’s the only one we have now on this campus that doesn’t have single rooms for parents,” Considine said. Children’s other units — the burn unit, the pediatric intensive care unit — have rooms in which parents can stay with their child.

“Consequently, we have some more capital needs we need to address,” said Considine, who along with the board of trustees is looking at another bond issue to pay for another expansion.

Growth is nothing new for Considine or for Children’s. “During my time here, our campus, in terms of acreage, has probably quadrupled, if not more,” Considine said. Since 1979, the year Considine came back to his hometown to lead the hospital, it has expanded from one location to 78, stretching from Norwalk east to Youngstown and south to Mansfield; from 900 employees to more than 4,000. ” I just marvel at our growth,” he said.

Children’s expanded in the Youngstown area a year ago when it opened Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley. In 2007, Akron Children’s and Humility of Mary Health Partners of Youngstown bought the 23-acre former Beeghly Medical Park. The partners invested $10 million in renovating the campus for pediatric use, then opened it in December.

“There were a lot of folks who didn’t think that was going to get traction real quick,” Considine said about the campus, especially the pediatric emergency room. “We projected that we might see 15,000 visits in the emergency room over there. We’re already at 15,000 and we’ve still got November and December to go.”

Akron Children’s got its foot in the Youngstown door in 2007 when it took over management of Tod Children’s Hospital operations. Forum Health, now reorganizing in federal bankruptcy court, would have closed the 28-bed operation at its Northside Medical Center had it not partnered with Akron Children’s and Humility of Mary to move it first to St. Elizabeth Health Center and then to the Mahoning Valley children’s hospital site, according to the Youngstown Vindicator.

“We just put some special care nursery beds on that campus,” Considine said. “We have physical therapy, occupational therapy out there. We have a children’s pharmacy out there. We want to put some outpatient surgery there. Most importantly … we have about 400 people now who are employed in Youngstown.”

Other recent Children’s expansions:

2009— Expanded specialty care services in Norwalk; opened emergency department in Montrose (Akron area); opened ear, nose and throat center; opened plastic and reconstructive surgery center.

2008— Opened Children’s Hospital Physician Associates offices in Hudson and Solon; debuted Air Bear, the only dedicated pediatric helicopter in Ohio; helped launch the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron.

2007— Opened Children’s Psychiatric Intake Response Center; $3.5 million specialists’ office in Boardman; center for orthopedics and sports medicine.

2006— Opened 20-bed pediatric unit in Boardman with Humility of Mary Health Partners; established hospitalist program at St. Elizabeth’s Youngstown campus; opened digestive health center.

2005— Struck 10-year partnership with Humility of Mary; opened Children’s at Hudson; opened pediatric in-patient unit at Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna.

[William Considine photo credit: Ted Stevens, Akron Children’s Hospital]