Local businesses participate in creation of new children's hospital

January 4, 2011
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When Spectrum Health's Helen DeVos Children's Hospital opens in Grand Rapids next week, local businesses will get a chance to see how the young patients and their parents react to their efforts.

Starting in the lobby, LaFontsee Galleries/Underground Studio has contributed to the hospital's colorful and kid-friendly countenance.

"We decided early on in the process that we really wanted the art to be children's art," said Dr. Robert Connors, president of the $286 million hospital set to open Jan. 11. "As people walk through the hospital, I think they'll be amazed at the creativity, the beauty, the wonder of this art that kids created. It's going to be one more thing, I think, that will make children comfortable in this space."

"(There are) 14 floors of artwork," said Scott LaFontsee, who co-owns the art business with his wife, Linda.

The gallery is one of many local businesses that have worked on aspects of the new hospital, from construction to producing items for sale in the gift shop. The list also includes medical equipment supplier Skytron and video specialists Optimal Solutions of Wyoming.

"We were pretty intentional about promoting local businesses throughout the process, and that went right down to picking our art consultant," Connors added.

After a national search, the hospital staff settled on LaFontsee Galleries, 820 Monroe Ave. NW, which has coordinated art in other local health care settings. But they had never before been asked to corral the talents of children, Linda LaFontsee said.

"That was certainly a challenge because that's not an area we generally work in," she said. "We work with professional artists."

"We didn't know if we could come up with enough artwork by children," Scott LaFontsee added. "It's a $300 million building. The décor in there is over-the-top amazing."

The LaFontsees and their staff decided to cast a wide net in the eight months they had for the project. They worked with art teachers and children's organizations, such as Very Special Arts, Grandville Avenue Academy for the Arts and the Kent Intermediate School District, as well as professional artists who ran workshops, giving literally hundreds of children the opportunity to create a drawing, painting or ceramic piece to be considered for display somewhere in the structure. They conducted workshops in their 13-employee gallery, enlisted high school students and hosted an art-making tent at Celebration on the Grand.

The LaFontsees convinced Tracy VanDuinen, second-place winner of the first year of ArtPrize, to produce a mosaic for the lobby, using some pieces created by youth. His ArtPrize winning entry is now part of the Grand Rapids Children's Museum.

Armed with plans and samples of interior finishes and colors, the gallery was able to use about 10 percent of the artwork that children created, Scott LaFontsee said. Gallery staff custom-painted frames for about 800 pieces of art.

"This hospital is important to this community, and it showed," he said. "People wanted to give back to that hospital. You don't want your children in there, but if they have to be somewhere, that's where you want them."

Skytron is another Grand Rapids company with fingerprints at the 440,000-square-foot hospital. One item that is expected to make life easier for hospital staff is an arm that carries multiple intravenous devices and attaches directly to beds or cribs. It reduces the number of staff required — and the hassle — for patient transfers, said Randy Tomaszewski, Skytron vice president of marketing.

"They can get them into the elevator and down the hallways without (needing) multiple staff in order to wheel separate IV stands," he said. The item also has been placed in hospitals in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, he added.

"We have equipment throughout the Children's Hospital," Tomaszewski said.

Lighting is a particular specialty at Skytron. In the operating rooms, Tomaszewski said, are lights that are bright yet cool, use half the energy, and feature built-in, high-definition cameras.

In addition, the hospital is using Skyron's RFID-based inventory location system, to allow for the quick location of just about every piece of equipment.

A Wyoming firm, Optimal Solutions, installed its video system called eVideon Healthcare. Long active in the education field, the company installed a similar system at Metro Health Hospital.

At the new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, the system provides on-demand movies in patient rooms and on a cool drop-down screen in a play area. Television channels can be customized to the patient, said President Jeff Ingle.

Patients actually will never see an Optimal Solutions innovation, which is a converter hidden behind the televisions that allows any television to interface with any system used as the controller at the bed, Ingle said. The system rides on the data system, which will allow easy expansion to Butterworth and Blodgett as part of Optimal Solution's contract with Spectrum, he added.

The system also can deliver custom channels for patient education and professional development. It can connect to other hospital services such as food service. Spectrum is not utilizing those features at this time, Ingle said.

EVideon delivers high-definition images without requiring a computer in every room, which cuts down on energy usage as well as infrastructure needs.

"We're really excited to be part of the children's hospital," Ingle said.

The new hospital is the culmination of a dream Connors has held since several floors in Butterworth Hospital were dedicated to pediatrics in 1993. The 150 pediatricians now on staff cover 40 specialties. It will have 206 beds, including a 72-bed neonatal unit — the largest in the state — and a 21-bed emergency room. All the rooms are private, with accommodations for parents to stay overnight, except for several large neonatal rooms that can accommodate multiple patients. It has operating rooms and a cardiac catheterization room dedicated for children.

"It's an opportunity to show people what a children's hospital can be like," said Connors, a pediatric surgeon. "One of the things we really wanted to accomplish is that when children walk into the building, they know they are in their kind of place,. They are engaged with playfulness and color that will put them at ease. They will see we have ice cream and pizza."

One area important to Connors is for sedation. The various departments that require sedation, such as the magnetic resonance imaging machines and surgery, are close to the area where sedation occurs. 

"We want the safest children's hospital in the country, safety and quality of care," Connors said. "One of the challenges now is that our footprint is all over the place. We are taking sick kids here, there and everywhere in a large medical center.

"We have been serious about building in efficiency. We are serious about sedation and keeping kids comfortable. In the new hospital, we designed centralized sedation, and the services wrap around it, physically."

Michigan has two other children's hospitals. The University of Michigan Health System is planning to open a new children's hospital in 2012, and the Children's Hospital of Michigan has announced plans for a major update. A large proportion of children are covered by government programs.

"There are about 5,000 general hospitals in the country, but only a few hundred children's hospitals," Connors said. "It's really quite extraordinary to have a children's hospital here. I think the number of children's hospitals in our state is the right number."

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