Texas Children's Hospital Announces Expansion

Texas Children's Hospital is announcing a $1.5 billion dollar expansion. It's the largest expansion ever by a children's hospital. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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The expansion will add two million square feet to Texas Children's facilities. The $1.5 billion investment will fund four initiatives to expand the organization's program and research capabilities. Hospital President and CEO Mark Wallace says the expansion is really about forward-thinking and preparing for the future demands on pediatric care.

"This organization is very thoughtful about how we plan for how we want to best meet the needs of the children that need to come to Texas Children's Hospital, either for primary care or for acute care. And so this is something that we've been working on for really about the last two years."

The Hospital will expand the Feigin Center for Pediatric Research. This is the main research arm of the hospital and will about double in size. They're also building the nation's first Children's Neurological Institute, which will focus on discovering therapies for neuro-developmental diseases. Texas Children's Physician-in-Chief Dr. Ralph Feigin says up until a few years ago, this kind of center would have been impossible to build.

"Many of the things that we need technically to further advance the field of pediatric neurology were not present. The genes had not been identified, the human genome had not been mapped, the imaging techniques beyond CT scans and MRIs. So we have the scientific base, we now have the technological tools and we want to put them together and mate them with the patient base that we have and really rapidly translate basic discoveries and bring them to the bedside."

Texas Children's will also branch out into maternity care. Construction on a 700,000 square foot Maternity Center will begin early next year. The $575 million center is designed to serve high-risk pregnancies and help maintain care from the pre-natal to the perinatal stage. The fourth initiative involves building a new hospital in West Houston. The Texas Children's Hospital West Campus will be located at I-10 and Barker Cypress.

"The West Houston decision was made because we already owned the property out in that location. The sociologists who look at the demography of the city of Houston, I guess yearly, tell us that by the year 2020 the center of Houston will actually be at the site of this hospital that we plan. And so again, we're planning for the future. It'll be several years before we can get it constructed."

All of the projects will be complete by 2010. The expansion will create nearly three thousand new jobs within the hospital system. Texas Children's plans to raise a total of $400 million through a capital campaign. They're already received $120 million in pledges. The remainder of the $1.5 billion price tag will come through some loans as well as reserve funds saved over the years. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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