The Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida is ready to expand.
Since opening in 1994 it has grown into the only facility for children between Miami and Tampa Bay, with the highest survival rate among Neonatal Intensive Care Units in the state.
Last year, hospital officials developed a seven-story expansion of the children's hospital that would increase the number of beds from 98 to 128, expand specialty services and provide more room for staff and families.
Jim Nathan, president of the Lee Memorial Health System, said the goal of the children's hospital has always been to keep children with complex healthcare needs as close to home as possible.
But, as the community has grown, so has the need to expand the current facility.
"A few years ago it became quite evident that the facilities' challenges were such that significant space would need to be added to keep up with both our communities' growth and also the fact that many children with medical challenges now require multi-year, complex interventions," said Nathan.
The Lee Memorial Foundation, the fund-raising entity of the hospital system, started a $100 million capital campaign to help pay for the $200 million project. Organizations and philanthropists across Southwest Florida raised money for the campaign and Nathan announced on Tuesday night that the foundation had met $80 million of its goal.
Naples-based philanthropist B. Thomas Golisano, the inventor of Paychex Inc., agreed to match all contributions to the capital campaign up to $20 million.
"When I announced my commitment in 2012 I hoped it would leverage support from everyone in the community, that it would motivate everyone to contribute in a meaningful way to this important endeavor," said Golisano. "Now that this challenge has been met, we took a major step closer in opening this state-of-the-art facility."
Every year there are 5,000 in-patient visits to the hospital, 4,000 outpatient visits and 28,000 pediatric emergency visits. In the past, sick children were sent to other facilities across the state.
Richard Akin, chairman of the Lee Memorial Health System Board of Directors, said keeping sick children near their families promotes healing.
"I saw kids hospitalized for days or even weeks where they never got to see their family," he said. "It was because parents couldn't miss work or maybe they didn't have parents, but those kids were basically stranded on the east coast, in the hospital, sick and didn't even see their family."
The new facility will also provide accommodations for parents and caregivers to stay with children 24 hours a day, utilize technology for a dedicated pediatric medical staff, and offer more treatments and procedures.
Hospital officials hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday night but the ribbon-cutting on the new facility won't be until 2017. Donations are still being accepted to raise an additional $20 million.
For more information or how to donate, visit childrenshospitalgoal.org.