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Editorial: New Oishei Children's Hospital is a remarkable achievement

The brand-spanking-new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital was a long time coming. Seventeen years ago most people would have bet against it, but today on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus the $270 million, high-tech hospital will formally open, capping years of planning and construction.

It’s a welcome addition to the campus and a necessary improvement on the aging Women and Children’s Hospital on Bryant Street. With parts of that facility dating to 1892, it was long past time for an upgrade. Not that long ago, though, it seemed as though it would never happen.

Previous snake-bitten efforts to move or upgrade the old hospital never made it past the talking stages. Doctors objected. Neighborhood residents protested. The planning was poor. It was the old Buffalo, acting up once again. What no one recognized at the time was that there was a better way that solved the old problems while creating something new and potent just a few blocks east.

That’s what is opening today, and the planning by Kaleida executives and the community appears to have been close to perfect. Not only is a new, thoughtfully designed hospital opening on the city’s burgeoning Medical Campus, but Kaleida is taking pains to make appropriate use of the former hospital in the Elmwood Village.

Its replacement will be the newest, but not the last, addition to the Medical Campus. In addition to construction of the Conventus building and the upgrade at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the University at Buffalo Medical School has begun moving into its new $375 million home at Main and Allen streets. Construction of the new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is 99 percent complete and classes are scheduled to begin in January.

Oshei Children’s Hospital, funded in part with a $10 million gift from the John R. Oishei Foundation, will be a key part of the expanding Medical Campus. Indeed, it already is, with the hospital having begun its move earlier this year. The transition concludes today, as patients and staff move and the new hospital begins offering inpatient and emergency services.

The updated design of the new building will allow newborn babies to remain with their mothers for their entire stay, while a passageway to Buffalo General Hospital will allow easy access to more intensive care for women when necessary. The new emergency room is about double the space of the old hospital’s, and includes a bigger waiting area for families. The operating and trauma resuscitation rooms are also larger. All make use of modern, high-tech equipment.

The issue that continues to dog the entire Medical Campus is a decidedly low-tech one: parking. As greater numbers of employees flood the area and medical students move in early next year, the potential for gridlock and frustration is high.

The Metro station there has been expanded and reconfigured to encourage use of mass transit, but it seems certain that more will have to be done to accommodate the influx of vehicles.

But that’s a problem Buffalo can be happy to have. With today’s arrival of the Oishei Children’s Hospital, the city takes another in a series of giant steps ahead. This is a day that will make a difference.

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