Sinai plans to expand Children's Hospital

The Baltimore Sun

Sinai Hospital announced plans yesterday for a $30 million expansion of its Children's Hospital -- part of a still-under-development plan that could mean $100 million in improvements over the next four to five years.

The plans call for a new pediatric outpatient structure near the front of the current hospital, coupled with a floor of new inpatient space over the roof of an existing building, as well as renovation of existing space.

Sinai, whose main building was completed in 1959, joins a hospital construction boom in the region, particularly among facilities built in the 1950s and 1960s when expanding suburbs and new federal money fueled rapid growth in medical institutions.

The Maryland Health Care Commission has approved $3.3 billion in construction over the past five years, nearly four times as much as in the previous five-year period.

Pamela Barclay, director of the commission's Center for Hospital Services, said three factors are fueling the spurt: "an increase in utilization, favorable financing on the bond market, and the age of the physical plant."

Barclay said the pace is expected to slow somewhat over the next few years, although, she said, she is aware of other large projects in the development stage.

Among projects under way or approved in the Baltimore area are a billion-dollar replacement of half the inpatient beds at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a $200 million outpatient building at University of Maryland Medical Center.

Other major expansions are at Franklin Square Hospital Center in White Marsh, Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, Howard County General Hospital in Columbia and Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air.

In addition to projects already approved, the state health care commission is still reviewing a $292 million, 18-story patient tower for Mercy Medical Center in downtown Baltimore, and a $160 million expansion and renovation at St. Agnes Hospital in Southwest Baltimore. Both of those hospitals were built at about the same time as Sinai's principal building.

"The 1959 hospital can no longer meet the needs of contemporary technology," said Neil M. Meltzer, Sinai's president.

He said the new children's facility would allow for larger, single rooms, which are better for infection control and for allowing parents to stay with their sick children.

Meltzer said the expansion also would allow the hospital to bring together a number of pediatric sub-specialties, such as pediatric endocrinology, neonatology and pediatric gastroenterology, now scattered through several buildings on the hospital's Northwest Baltimore campus.

The pediatric unit will add about 10 beds to its existing 28, Meltzer said, although plans aren't finished and are subject to review by the health care commission.

The hospital recently opened an eight-bed expansion of its postpartum unit, and plans to open next month two new floors in the South Tower for a larger cardiac catheterization lab and a neuroscience unit.

On the drawing board is a plan to add three more floors to the South Tower, incorporating a new intensive-care unit and an intermediate-care unit. That would also allow Sinai to renovate the fourth floor of the main hospital, as it moves to convert to private rooms there.

Meltzer said construction would not begin on the Children's Hospital until 2009 to allow time for fundraising. Sinai announced yesterday a major gift for the Children's Hospital: $4 million from the Herman and Walter Samuelson Foundation. The Children's Hospital will be named after the Samuelsons.

With a number of other donations promised, Sinai has about $14 million in pledges for the $30 million pediatric project.

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