It’s been 27 years, and I can still remember the amazement I felt when I realized that we were creating a comprehensive children’s hospital in Fort Myers.
There had been pediatric services at Lee Memorial Hospital for several years, but local pediatricians were determined to do more. They pooled their own money to bring Deogracias Caangay, M.D., to our community to open a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
That’s when we knew we were going to do something big for our smallest of patients.
These newborns in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit were so small that they could nestle themselves in the palm of your hand. Our staff was starting IVs in veins thinner than a strand of human hair.
We were saving the lives of those infants right here in Lee County.
I still get chills when I think about how far the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida has come since it officially opened within HealthPark Medical Center and became designated in 1994 by the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and the Florida Association of Children’s Hospitals.
The Children’s Hospital took another big step Oct. 19, when an extension of the hospital opened at Cape Coral Hospital.
The Children’s Hospital at Cape Coral Hospital, which opened with 14 beds but can be expanded to 24, will be staffed by pediatric hospitalists and nurses who are employees of the Children’s Hospital.
The Children’s Hospital extension is intended for children with common ailments, such as newborn jaundice or pneumonia. Critically ill children still will be taken to the Children’s Hospital’s main location.
However, this second location of the Children’s Hospital will be a huge benefit to families in Cape Coral and North Fort Myers, who will be able to keep their children close to home while knowing they are receiving the best possible care by our highly specialized team.
This second location is also just the beginning for the Children’s Hospital. There are now plans to build a freestanding tower to house the Children’s Hospital’s main location, which still will be connected to HealthPark Medical Center via a breezeway.
The 150-bed, four-floor tower will be built near the entrance to HealthPark Medical Center that currently serves as the entrance to the Children’s Hospital.
This new tower will enable us to better provide comprehensive health care to all of Lee County from a centralized location that is barely 15 miles from the county line.
The tower isn’t likely to be up and running until 2015. Once the design is complete, it will be time to launch a capital campaign to build the hospital. And that is when we will see something else amazing in our community — the power of giving.
Jim Nathan is president and chief executive officer of Lee Memorial Health System.