Kaleida Health/John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital

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|Jun 3|magazine17 min read

With a mission to advance the health of the community, Kaleida Health’s expert, compassionate healthcare professionals are committed to providing the best possible outcomes and experience for more than one million sick or injured patients each year.

As the largest healthcare provider in Western New York, Kaleida Health serves the area's eight counties through its hospitals – Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute, DeGraff Memorial Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, and Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo – two long-term care facilities, more than 80 outpatient clinics and home health care through the Visiting Nursing Association of Western New York, Inc.

For more than 120 years, Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo has been the regional center for comprehensive, specialized pediatric and women’s health services.

In an effort to streamline patient care, expand services and treat more patients in an ambulatory setting, Kaleida Health embarked on the journey of building the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Mickey Mariacher, Director of Construction Management, manages the day-to-day construction operations. As the contact person representing the new hospital for all matters with contractors and the architect, Mariacher discussed the hospital’s vision, the challenges of building in a weather-difficult region and the impact one hospital will have on Western New York and beyond.

The vision

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“In order to provide the best care, it was deemed necessary to build a completely new building,” Mariacher said as she watched a 200-foot crane lift a piece of steel during the interview. “The previous facility was an aging conglomeration of buildings that were assembled over the years, and as such, there were some convoluted hallways and difficulty navigating from one building to another. In this new building, we were able to get all of the services that we had in the 600,000 square foot Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo to fit economically and efficiently into the new hospital’s 425,000 square feet.”

Discussions for a new hospital began back in 2012, and the design process took nearly two years. A historic $10 million donation from the John R. Oishei Foundation was announced at the new hospital’s groundbreaking ceremony in August 2014. In line with its mission to serve as a catalyst for change in the region, The John R. Oishei Foundation chose to become the lead supporter of the hospital to ensure families continued to have immediate access to specialized health services. Since then, the hospital has received nearly $50 million in funds.

Following the groundbreaking, the team for Turner Construction Company began the Building Information Modeling (BIM) process, which used a 3D software program to construct the building in an effort to avoid potential clashes and facilitates coordination between all disciplines before they step foot on the site. Construction of the hospital remains on schedule, with doors set to open in late 2017.

“Our vision for the new hospital is to be the innovator, the highest quality, highest value provider and partner, and the regional referral center for women and children’s health care,” said Mariacher.

The 12-floor, 183-bed, free-standing facility will be adjacent to the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and will offer hands-on experience for medical students. An emergency room will be equipped with four trauma rooms. A neonatal intensive care unit will provide around-the-clock support for the sickest children, and dedicated labor and delivery rooms will be designed to offer the best care possible.

With overarching design elements intended to be “kid-friendly,” the hospital will encompass light and open spaces, greenery inside and outside the building, color-themed floors, and a “beacon of light” from the ground to the roof on one corner of the hospital that will be visible from miles away.

“We are the only children’s hospital in Western New York,” explained Mariacher. “We’re looking for [the hospital] to be a building that, through its design elements, offers comfort to you as you walk in with a sick child.”

Overcoming challenges

With a construction project of this magnitude, worth $270 million, there are bound to be some roadblocks along the way, but Mariacher is well prepared to handle these and see the project to the end through efficient coordination.

“Design takes several years, and construction takes several years, and it’s not uncommon during the construction process for new trends, innovations and equipment for operations to dictate the need for a change,” said Mariacher. “Change while you're in the middle of building is always a challenge, but it is something we are able to handle successfully.”

One of the challenges Mariacher and her team have faced is the harsh winter climate New York offers. The winter of 2014 saw freezing temperatures well below 0 degrees, and this year’s winter is expected to be the same. In order to offset this, a temporary wrap is placed around the building that can retain heat throughout the interior,  allowing construction to continue.

“We heat it to at least 40 degrees, which allows us to continue to work through the winter,” said Mariacher. “So, while we spend a little money on heat and the wrap, we gain everything back by being able to work through those three or four months.”

Safety is also another concern that is always on the forefront of everyone’s minds during a construction build. Oishei Children’s Hospital is being built next to an existing hospital that is still in operation, which offers its own set of unique challenges—such as accessibility to an adjacent helipad.

“We had a lot of coordination between our crane operator and our pilot that mans the helicopter flights of sick patients to our helipad,” shared Mariacher. “Our tower crane is over 200 feet high, and the new hospital is only maybe 100 feet away from the existing hospital which is also 200 feet high. We spent about six months coordinating a protocol so that when a helicopter is approaching with a patient, we can get the crane operator to set his load down and move the boom out of the flight path.”

Daily toolbox talks, fire drills and pre-planning also go into offsetting any potential risks that might possibly occur.

Signaling the future

“When you have an opportunity to go from an ageing building that’s perhaps outlived its efficient life, and you step into a new colorful, glass, shiny building with lots of plants, liveliness and artwork, I think that improves everybody’s day,” shared Mariacher.

Mariacher knows the value of a children’s hospital. She understands the worry of a parent and the fear of a child that comes from being sick. That’s why she and the team at Kaleida Health have worked hard to create an inviting yet technologically advanced hospital that is “a special place” for those who need it most.

The John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital will attract the best and the brightest doctors, will support a growing community and will be a beacon of hope for women and children in Western New York and beyond.

“We want this to say, ‘Bring your children here; we can take care of them,’” said Mariacher. “This hospital will benefit hundreds of thousands of people for many years to come.”

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