Merced County Times Newspaper
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Details emerge on important new center for children’s care

By September 2021, Merced will have a new children’s outpatient care center costing millions of dollars. The new complex within sight of Mercy Medical Center will encompass 25,000 square feet of facilities arranged in three pods, staffed at first by 25 to 30 medical professionals.

Rob Saroyan of Fresno, president of the Valley Children’s Healthcare Foundation, highlighted the new developments planned by the Madera-based children’s hospital which serves an area between Sacramento and Kern counties. Saroyan spoke to about 30 government and community leaders Wednesday night at a 90-minute program at Merced’s Branding Iron restaurant.

Saroyan said the hospital is currently in the design-development stage for the first phase of clinic expansion here. Harris Construction Co. of Fresno is the design-build contractor, with SmithGroup of San Francisco the design architect.

The six-acre complex will be located on formerly city-owned property bordered by Yosemite Avenue, Mansionette Drive and Sandpiper Avenue. It will join outreach facilities already in operation or contemplated in Modesto, Fowler, Visalia and Bakersfield.

Saroyan says the hospital’s goal is to build facilities so parents are no more than 30 miles from a Valley Children’s facility.
Merced’s new facility, which will replace clinic buildings on Olivewood Drive that are currently overtaxed, will offer specialty care, pediatric care and maternal-fetal medicine services for high-risk pregnancies.

Designs for the new complex will be completed in January 2020, with construction documents prepared between January and March 2020, Saroyan said, with the permitting and bid scoping process taking place between March and May of next year.

Construction is to begin in May 2020 and be completed in July 2021, with stocking and staffing scheduled for August 2021 and the facility “going live” in September 2021.

Valley Children’s wants to be a leader in providing children’s health services but Saroyan stressed there will be plenty of collaboration with other health professionals, including local doctors and Mercy Medical Center Merced.
When it’s completed, parents of sick children will be able to meet with specialists in Merced rather than having to drive to the hospital on the edge of Madera.

Saroyan said the hospital has not finalized budget numbers for the Merced complex yet, which depends upon the number of square feet of the prospective buildings. In the next two weeks more concise financial figures should be available.
But the complex will be in the multi-million dollar range, Saroyan said.

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, said this represents an important investment in one of the most underserved areas in this region. He said Valley Children’s Hospital is an incredible resource for this area.
In its planning the hospital is building in provisions for expansion. At full buildout, the complex could encompass approximately 40,000 square feet.

Matthew Steele, the service development officer for the Valley Children’s Healthcare Foundation, said until the hospital can purchase property and services it won’t build anywhere. No leases are involved in the Merced project.

“The money is there before we build them,” Steele said.

Steele said more than 10,000 children are served at Valley Children’s outpatient clinic in Modesto. Seventy percent of the children served have no way of paying.

“We serve every child anytime,” Steele said.

Saroyan said the foundation is excited about the next phase of participation with the Merced community. Valley Children’s Hospital is the only dedicated pediatric medical care facility in the Central Valley in an area stretching from Modesto to Bakersfield.

The hospital is celebrating 70 years of existence this year, serving 1.3 million children. The hospital’s goal is to provide more access to health care for children.

Saroyan confirmed Merced has a shortage of pediatricians. He says the hospital hopes to collaborate with local pediatricians, rather than compete with them.

“Our medical group will do an assessment on what the community needs in health care and make sure we have the right doctors,” Saroyan said.

In years past children would be frightened with the antiseptic, clinical look of health care but the new facilities involve doing interesting, interactive things in a playful way.

He said Valley Children’s is creating new patient experience. When this happens, outcomes are much better. Using interactive tools, children’s experiences will be very engaging, something similar to a visit to Disneyland.

Saroyan said there will be opportunities for the community to get involved in Merced’s new project. Seventy-three percent of the donations to Valley Children’s Hospital go for patient services, with 6 percent earmarked for construction and 11 percent for purchase of equipment. The hospital has raised more than $70 million in the last five years.

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