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WVU Medicine Children’s taking shape: A tour through the construction

MORGANTOWN – Visitors to the WU Medicine campus can see the giant, colorful Children’s signs adorning the front and side of the new WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital. It’s also taking shape inside as the February 2022 opening draws closer, and The Dominion Post was granted an inside tour Friday.

It’s still a work in progress. Some floors look close to what they will be when the building opens, others are concrete and require some imagination to see what will be. Here and there, men in hard hats make their way along a quiet hallway. You wonder how they found their way here through the maze of elevators and stairways and if it would be possible for someone to get lost or live here undiscovered for a time.

The family resource center

Kenny Rockwell, WVU Medicine’s manager of Planning, Design and Construction, led the tour. We crossed the fourth-floor connector from the main hospital and the Heart & Vascular Institute to Children’s, then rode one of the many elevators up to the top floor.

Rockwell noted that the entry from the connector will feature one of the several security checkpoints to be stationed at various spots – requiring ID access to protect the kids in the hospital.

The 10th floor includes about 20,000 square feet of shell space that can be adapted for later use, depending on what need arises. There are lots of bare walls and conduit in the ceiling space here.

But toward the front, and already starting to look welcoming, is the sports-themed family resource center with big windows overlooking the football stadium. “It’ a place to come up here and not feel like you’re in a hospital,” Rockwell said.

A patient room

Lockers will line one wall. There ill be a “press box,” where kids can pretend they’re broadcasting the game, a coffee station and gaming pods. A lighted flying WV is suspended from the ceiling. There will also be a babysitter service space.

On Floor 9, we saw what will be a typical patient room taking shape, with warm wood-panel head walls and ceiling. Customizable lighting behind the head walls lets the child pick the color and theme for the room’s atmosphere.

Floor 8 will be the labor and delivery floor. Here, drywall defines the spaces. The birthing rooms, Rockwell said, will be more spa-like and less like a hospital. Oversized bathrooms with a seat and shower will be able to accommodate the family. Each room will be furnished with a chair, recliner and couch.

Seven birthing rooms will have tubs for moms who want to deliver in that way. There are no tubs yet, but again, the spaces are defined.

A hallway

And more drywalled spaces allow you to picture the high-tech C-section rooms. Two are built and the last is shelled out, Rockwell said. Each will have a series of rooms: the prep room, the sterile core, the C-section room itself and a resuscitation room immediately behind.

The building looks big outside and feels bigger inside. Winding down yet another steel and concrete stairway, spools of wire sitting here and there, we learn that about 300 people a day are working right now, though the number fluctuates depending on what’s going on. That number will shrink as opening day approaches.

Those who visit the campus on a regular basis may remember that for a time the exterior looked like it was covered with metal mobile home siding. Rockwell said that’s insulation that was later covered with the exterior siding you see now. Getting the building enveloped properly is crucial to keep out mold and moisture. Atop the building will be a second helipad, built to handle larger, heavier helicopters than the one atop Ruby.

Reaching Floor 7, we see the NICU – neonatal intensive care unit – rooms taking shape. A work station with windows sits between each pair of rooms to allow close monitoring. Built into the walls are pass-through doors for laundry, set there to minimize disturbance for the infants and reduce traffic in the room.

Level six is the PICU – pediatric intensive care unit – much the same as the PICU floor, and we skip down to Level 5.

This floor will never have warm paneling, soothing paint colors and delightful pictures adorning the walls. It’s the mechanical floor.

The MRI machine

In Ruby, Rockwell said, each floor has a mechanical space. Here, all the infrastructure is consolidated on one floor to allow more space on the other floors for patient care.

Circling around the concrete floor, we see the two air handlers, the Culligan water softeners and treatment system, the fire pumps, medical gas and air compressors, and a wall of switch gear panels, where 23,000 volts come in and get stepped down to what’s usable: 110 and so on.

Level 4 includes an administration suite, suggested by drywalled spaces, a lab that will have tubes connected to Ruby should some samples need to be sent over there, and the radiology spaces.

Earlier this week, the first of the big pieces of major medical equipment, an MRI machine, was raised by crane and passed through an open wall – a replaceable knock-out panel – into the room. MRI machines weigh about 25,000 pounds, Rockwell said, and the knock-out panel is necessary to allow for installation and replacement.

The balcony

Kids scheduled for an MRI, Rockwell said, will first be introduced to the procedure in another room with a mini-MRI, where a teddy bear will undergo a sample scan.

Level 3 will include six operating rooms and the cath lab. Patients will take the elevator up to this floor into an open and brightly lit waiting area. Off to one side will be a play area. A player piano donated by the Betty Puskar family will provide endless music.

A glass-walled balcony overlooks the Level 2 atrium. Right now, the thick glass panels are marked with blue X’s. Level 2 will have the cafeteria, urgent care and emergency department.

On Feb 12, shortly before opening day, will be the annual children’s gala, said WVUM Children’s Chief Operating Officer Amy Bush. The last gala was in 2020; COVID-19 forced its cancellation this year. “We’re really excited this year to have our children’s gala come back.”

Bush wanted to be sure to thank WVUM President and CEO Albert Wright and the board for their support, along with all the donors, campaign chairs and advisory council, and the health care team.

“The teamwork and the support hasn’t let up, and it’s been very much appreciated,” she said, “We’re working on a dream come true to have a hospital designed for the kids and their families and expecting moms. … This is a vision that we’ve had for a long time. And were just really excited to have this come to life, and we’re in the home stretch.”

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