When Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center was first looking for a place to build a small hospital and emergency center closer to where many of its patients lived, it was one of the first players to identify Liberty Twp.’s Ohio 129 and Liberty Way exit as prime real estate.
“We were really early to the game out here,” said Char Mason, vice president of operations. “We found this is where a large percentage of patients being admitted to the main campus resided.”
Since the time Cincinnati Children’s opened its Liberty Campus in 2008 — putting access to care at the nation’s third best children’s hospital in the northern suburbs — the response was better than expected, Mason said. Patient visits doubled in the first year of operation at the 12-bed hospital and outpatient center from about 100,000 to more than 200,000 by 2014, Mason said.
“This has been a huge success because this is where the patients and families are, that’s why we’re growing and we keep adding services that will enable them to be seen here,” she said.
New services added include urgent care.
Today, Cincinnati Children’s Liberty Campus celebrates its biggest overhaul yet. The hospital’s chief executive officer and other leaders are descending on Butler County for the ribbon cutting.
Work to add a fourth floor onto the building has been completed, making room for an additional 30 overnight beds. Liberty Campus now has a total 42 inpatient beds opening for use on Aug. 17.
The approximately $50 million, 70,000-square-foot building expansion also adds a kitchen; full-service cafeteria; expanded medical and surgery specialty clinics; new outpatient pharmacy; expanded gift shop and inpatient pharmacy; renovated laboratory and blood bank; a family resource center; and support space for Materials Management and Information Services, Mason said. Also, an on-call operating team is now available 24/7, whereas before, surgeries were only done during scheduled hours, she said.
About 200 full-time equivalent jobs were added as a result, and now more than 600 employees work at the Liberty Campus, Mason said. Those numbers make it the township's largest employer.
“By expanding our facilities at Liberty Township, we can offer the best of both worlds — the pediatric specialty expertise of a world-renowned academic medical center, scaled to a friendly and convenient suburban setting,” Cincinnati Children’s President and CEO Michael Fisher said in a written statement.
The most complicated and severe pediatric cases must still be treated at the main campus in Avondale.
Jeannette Holliday, a West Chester Twp. mother of three boys, rushed her then 8-year-old middle son to Liberty Campus when he became critically ill in 2010. The week before he had been diagnosed by the family doctor with chicken pox. But that night, he complained of a headache, didn’t eat and went to sleep. Nothing was the same for the family after that, Holliday said.
Instead of chicken pox, Tyler had Rocky Mountain spotted fever. By the time he arrived at the emergency room in septic shock, the fever had taken over most of his body except his lungs, Holliday said. The brain damage means Tyler, now 13, cognitively functions as a 3-year-old, she said.
“The care they started up here at the Liberty Campus, they saved his life,” she said.
He receives ongoing neurology therapy and testing at the local hospital and in downtown Cincinnati. She hopes the added services at Liberty Campus means more treatments close to home, less drive time for her and more time in school for her son.
“It’s just a level of comfort for us too,” she said.
Liberty Campus is Cincinnati Children’s only other hospital with inpatient beds, operating rooms and emergency services outside the main campus on Burnett Avenue, Mason said. Foot traffic is expected to grow going forward.
Even though hospital renovations are complete, construction crews won’t be leaving the Liberty Campus site any time soon.
Construction continues on a second, approximately $120 million project to also build a proton therapy center at the Liberty Campus for cancer treatment. That facility could open in the winter of 2016-2017. Once open, the more than 80,000-square-foot proton center in Butler County will have two clinical treatment rooms, one for pediatrics and one for adults to be offered in partnership with hospital network UC Health. A third treatment area will be used for research, according to Cincinnati Children's.
When proton therapy opens, patients and their families will be able to visit new retail and restaurant developments in the area such as the $350 million Liberty Center complex on Liberty Way. Liberty Center's grand opening is this October.
In the meantime, Cincinnati Children’s will convert the space at the Liberty Twp. hospital that formerly housed 12 inpatient beds into a cancer clinic for chemotherapy treatment and other services, Mason said. Those beds moved onto the fourth floor with the others. The cancer clinic is set to open this fall, before the proton center does, and at that time both inpatient and outpatient cancer services will be offered, she said.