SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Doctors, construction workers and benefactors signed a beam this morning to mark the final phase of construction at the Memorial Health Dwaine & Cynthia Willet Memorial Hospital. The beam was then raised to top off the new building.
The beam represents the completion phase of a hospital to serve sick children throughout coastal Georgia and the Lowcountry. Fundraising for the project started in 2014.
Hospital services specializing in children’s needs actually began at Memorial in 1992, but when the new facility is complete in 2020, it will offer an additional 28,000 square feet of space dedicated to providing care for sick children and supporting their families. It also promises a vast array of new and innovative services for children and their loved ones.
Heather Newsome, the administrative director of the Children’s Hospital says the entire project includes renovation an existing building on campus, which will provide 86,000 square feet of space solely dedicated to serving children.
“In the end, we’ll have 50 beds that will be dedicated to pediatric care,” says Newsome. “We will also have four OR’s (Operation Rooms) so any child that needs surgery can come right here to our facility. We’ll have a pediatric emergency department that will have 18 beds and a full complement of imaging suites.”
Cynthia Willett, the main benefactor with her husband Dwaine, says it is a bittersweet day because Mr. Willett died in late August.
“But I know how thrilled he would be that this day has come,” Mrs. Willett said.
In addition to a community fundraising campaign that brought in $18 million for the new facility, the Willetts provided a gift of $5 million.
Mrs. Willett said she and her late husband always wanted children together but were unable to have a family. Now, Mrs. Willett says she is comforted by the fact that thousands of children will be served when the new facility opens next year.
Memorial officials say last year up to 70,000 children were served in not only the hospital setting but through outpatient services as well. Mrs. Willett says the new facility will hopefully be a boost to children and their families during their most difficult times.
In addition to fundraising from the community, HCA (which took over Memorial Hospital in February of 2018 ) is finishing the project with a total project cost of about $65 million.