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All Children's to gain a family-friendly touch

Lavette Wimbley and Julie Pry just love the medical care their children have gotten at All Children's Hospital.

But when Wimbley's son goes there for sickle-cell anemia treatments each month, the St. Petersburg woman sleeps in a recliner.

And when Pry's two daughters were patients last month after a car wreck, things were rough.

"I didn't shower for five days," said Pry, of Englewood, south of Sarasota.

Making families more comfortable is the top goal of All Children's ambitious plans for a new hospital, officially unveiled Wednesday. The $270-million project is the largest expansion in All Children's history and will add about 1-million square feet of space to the hospital.

"That's one of our great concerns," said Gary Carnes, president and CEO. "We need to find a way to accommodate the family's needs."

The current building on Sixth Street S is "a great building," Carnes said, but it's almost 40 years old. Its semiprivate rooms aren't what families expect today, and they also make it harder to isolate patients who are infectious or have weakened immune systems.

Ed Ameen, chairman of the hospital board, notices the problem each month, when he and his wife take coffee around to patients' parents. Sometimes, he said, patients are being moved to isolation. Other times, parents can't find a spot to set a coffee cup.

"I've seen families sitting on the floor because they can't sit anywhere else," he said.

In the new building, the hospital plans private rooms, with private bathrooms and showers. Patients will be able to watch movies and play computer games. Parents will have Internet access to a network where they can create their own Web pages to keep family and friends up-to-date on patient conditions.

The design of the hospital still hasn't been set. All Children's says they are asking doctors, staff and families for suggestions. The hospital even brought four children to Wednesday's event, introducing them as part of the "design team."

Some of their ideas may be hard to pull off. Caitlin Pry, 10, called her 8-year-old sister in as a consultant to draw her idea of the new hospital. Both girls still bear scars from their wreck. But they explained the illustration with enthusiasm.

"My family went to Las Vegas," Caitlin said. "And we went to a hotel shaped like a castle."

Joshua Wimbley, 8, was more concerned about events inside. He suggested putt-putt golf, Chuck E. Cheese in every playroom, and a regular schedule of races involving IV poles.

The new hospital will be eight stories tall and have 240 beds, located two blocks from the current building on the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue S and Sixth Street S.

The expansion also will affect Bayfront Medical Center next door. Bayfront will lease space in the new building to move its maternity services there. The change will be more convenient for mothers of high-risk babies, who now go to All Children's neonatal unit while their mothers remain at Bayfront.

Bayfront also is planning a $20-million expansion of its own, adding 10 operating rooms. Bayfront officials also plan to conduct adult cardiac surgeries, now done at All Children's.

Connector bridges are planned between Bayfront and the new hospital.

"Today marks a further strengthening of this partnership that was forged nearly 40 years ago," said Sue Brody, Bayfront president and CEO.

The current All Children's building would be used for unspecified health care services after the new hospital is built.

All Children's plans a five-year, $75-million capital campaign to help pay for the new facility. Officials plan to pay the remaining $195-million with a mix of cash reserves, past donations and borrowing through bonds.

Construction is expected to start in early 2005 and be complete in summer 2007.

USF president Judy Genshaft, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, City Council members, hospital board members and dozens of hospital employees were on hand for the announcement.

Officials praised All Children's medical care and contributions to the community.

"All Children's been a good partner in this city for decades," said council member James Bennett. "We're thrilled that they're going to get a new house."