A new space at the future Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart will provide families of sick and injured children with a place to sleep, eat, shower, and relax just steps away from their child’s bedside.

In addition to the Ronald McDonald House currently on the Sacred Heart campus, the Ronald McDonald Family Room inside the new children’s hospital will feature a large, open living room and dining room, a full kitchen, shower and laundry facilities, a computer area, playroom for patients’ siblings, and a quiet room for families who receive upsetting news and need privacy for processing a diagnosis or making a phone call.

Artist’s rendering of the Studer Family Children’s Hospital, currently under construction. (Sacred Heart/Special to The Pulse)

The space will also feature three bedrooms and bathrooms to provide overnight accommodations in emergency situations when families need to be seconds away from children who are in critical condition.

“Ronald McDonald House has been a vital partner of The Children’s Hospital since the first House opened in 1984,” said Henry Stovall, president of Sacred Heart Hospital Pensacola. “The new family room is the next step in our relationship, and it is a much-needed resource, since the current House is often at capacity. Plus, parents of our most severely ill children – those who have been in a traumatic accident, need emergency surgery, are experiencing medical complications or are undergoing treatment for cancer – often don’t want to leave the bedside or the unit. They want to be steps away from their child. Thanks to the new family room, parents will have that peace of mind while being able to tend to their own needs and the needs of other children.”

As the regional pediatric trauma referral center and the region’s only children’s hospital, Sacred Heart’s Children’s Hospital sees patients from across Northwest Florida, South Alabama and South Georgia. Established more than 30 years ago, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Florida strives to be a “home away from home” and source of respite and resources for the families of children receiving medical treatment.

“Having access to specialized care is critical, and our partnership with The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart underscores how important it is to also have a refuge that keeps families with seriously ill children together,” said executive director Judy Burns. “Something as simple as a warm meal or a hot shower can provide a sense of normalcy that means the world to our families. We are very proud to work together on a project that will bring comfort and support to many more families and allow them to focus on what is most important: the health of their child.”

Judy Burns, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Florida. (Sacred Heart/Special to The Pulse)

Currently under construction, the new four-story children’s hospital is expected to open in 2019. The 2,800 square-foot family room will be located next to the neonatal intensive care unit on the second floor. The new hospital will connect to the front of the existing children’s hospital and will include a pediatric emergency room and trauma center, new procedure rooms dedicated to pediatric surgery, an expanded neonatal intensive care unit, a pediatric oncology unit, a medical/surgical unit, observation beds, and a pediatric rehabilitation gym.

Upon opening, the new children’s hospital is expected to create around 100 jobs. The growth will also enable recruitment of new pediatric specialists, Sacred Heart officials said.


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