The John R. Oishei Children's Hospital reflects a new mentality in Buffalo, one focused on the future instead of the past, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday at a dedication marking the completion of the new facility.
Citing other projects, including Canalside and the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences under construction downtown on Main Street, the governor noted that the region had turned around expectations about its status.
"You went from a place that was all about yesterday. And now it is all about tomorrow," Cuomo told a packed audience in the lobby of the new hospital at High and Ellicott streets on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The hospital it is replacing, Women & Children’s, was the first pediatric hospital in New York State, starting with 12 beds in 1892 in a renovated home on Bryant Street. Today, 125 years later, the new $270 million building, which was designed by Shepley Bulfinch in Boston and built by Turner Construction Co., incorporates modern features that reflect advances in health care design, and care to newborns and children.
The new building is scheduled to open to patients in mid-November. Among the changes is a neonatal intensive care unit with private rooms instead of an open-floor plan, widespread adoption of couplet care, in which mothers and newborns remain together for the entire hospital stay, and a completely revised layout for same-day surgery. The 12-floor, 185-bed facility also includes the regional perinatal center for neonatal intensive care and regional pediatric trauma center.
Tuesday's dedication was an upbeat event, but Cuomo offered some notes of caution. He said health care proposals and actions by the Trump administration and Congress, including failure so far to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program that serves 9 million children and their mothers, pose a danger to hospitals with a large share of low-income patients.
The state played a key funding role in the project, giving Kaleida Health grants totaling $35 million for a pediatric and maternal ambulatory care center inside the Conventus medical office building at 1001 Main St. that was developed by Ciminelli Real Estate Corp., as well as for the hospital. The new facility abuts Conventus and connects by a skybridge across Ellicott Street to Buffalo General Medical Center.
The walkway remains under construction, and workmen are completing the installation and testing of equipment in the facility.
Kaleida Health operates Women & Children's, Buffalo General, Millard Fillmore Suburban, and DeGraff Memorial hospitals, as well as the Gates Vascular Institute.
The John R. Oishei Foundation gave a gift of $10 million to rename the hospital. The donation was the largest single gift from the foundation in its history and the largest ever to the pediatric facility.
"This is another step for our community and the patients we serve," said Robert D. Gioia, president of the foundation and chairman of Great Lakes Health System of Western New York, the parent organization of Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center.
Kaleida Health financed the bulk of the cost through a loan insured by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"I'm humbled and proud of our city," said Frank Curci, chairman of the Kaleida Health board and chief executive officer of Tops Markets. Tops donated $2.5 million for a mother-baby unit in the new building.
The decision to build a new children's hospital, one of 43 free-standing pediatric facilities in the nation, was anything but smooth or easy. It arose after years of contentious debate about the future of the current campus near Elmwood Avenue, involving physicians, residents, business people, public officials and hospital administrators often at odds over different plans.
Jody L. Lomeo, president and chief executive officer of Kaleida Health, talked Tuesday about the "naysayers" who refused to believe it would be possible to build a new free-standing children's hospital downtown, a move that helped further develop the Medical Campus.
"Welcome to one of the final pieces of the puzzle, soon to be completed with the construction of the new UB medical school," he said.
Lomeo made special mention of people and organizations that played significant roles in making the project a reality, including the Service Employees International Union and Communication Workers of America, the unions that represent many of the workers at Kaleida Health's hospitals, as well as Allegra Jaros, the president of Women & Children's.