Beam Signing Tops Off First Phase of ACH Expansion

BOARDMAN, Ohio — Two beams painted white and adorned with several signatures and messages stand out from a construction project at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

Those beams mark a milestone in the expansion of the Beeghly Campus’ emergency department at 6505 Market St.: the completion of the first phase of the addition that broke ground in October 2021.

The expansion is a $31 million project that will increase the ER to 34,700 square feet, up from more than 9,000. Fisher, board chairman of Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream, donated $1 million to the project for the naming of Building A, the future Leonard J. “Lenny” Fisher Building. There is still a naming opportunity for Building B, were the ER will be located.

There will be 23 treatment rooms, compared to the existing six, as well as two new behavioral health treatment rooms and the addition of a second triage room. Despite building material supply issues throughout the first five months of construction, officials say the project is still anticipated to be completed in spring 2023.

“I always enjoy topping off ceremonies because it means we’re so close to being able to provide new programs and services that meet children’s needs,” said Chris Gessner, president and CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital. 

beam lenny gessner costello

Gallery images include signatures on one of the beams, Lenny Fisher signing the beam, Chris Gessner signing the beam, and Dr. Mary Costello, emergency department site director at Akron Children’s Beeghly Campus.

A beam-signing is a tradition that happens during construction projects. Akron Children’s thought Thursday’s event would be a way to honor that tradition and celebrate the spirit of the mission of helping children of the Mahoning Valley, Gessner said.

Staff are looking forward to the end result.

“We’re super excited to have more space to service the community,” said Ariel Judge, a registered nurse. Standing with her were Joanna Fenneken, also a registered nurse, and Katie Grande, a respiratory therapist. They agreed, saying the beam-signing is a signal things are moving along.

Right now, it’s difficult to see patients in a timely manner, which was already increasing before the pandemic, said Dr. Mary Costello, emergency department site director of Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

“We’re tripling our size,” she said.

Addressing those gathered in a large tent adjacent to the construction, Costello said space will be used for storage, which will make assisting patients and their families a smoother process.

“We won’t have to have stuff running 200 feet down the hall because we lack storage,” she said. “Every minute adds up. We can better serve the patient.”

From January to June 2021, Costello said “door to doc” time was under 30 minutes. In July, however, respiratory cases spiked, causing a backup that led to wait times creeping above the 30 minutes. The additional six rooms will help keep patients flowing from the waiting room, Costello said.

“The sooner you can start a work-up, the sooner you can streamline the whole process” and keep patients comfortable and treated in a more efficient timeframe, Costello said.

Akron Children’s Beeghly Campus is being used as a model, Gessner said. Outpatient behavioral health centers are being planned for Mansfield and Canton, with the structure coming from Boardman.

“Our first center was here, and it’s going so well that we are using it as a prototype and adding two in different parts of Ohio,” Gessner said.

The success is largely due to the people in the Mahoning Valley, who “step up and take risks,” showing the way to better possibilities, he said.

“My staff (of 80) is just so excited to be moving forward,” Costello said. “It’s about staff morale, too. We have a great culture. To see their involvement with the building, taking extra time to go to meetings” and show up to events like the beam signing “is wonderful.”

Pictured at top: Joanna Fenneken, registered nurse; Katie Grande, respiratory therapist; and Ariel Judge, registered nurse attend the beam signing Thursday morning at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

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