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Ochsner Health unveils plans for new children’s hospital, backed by donation from Gayle Benson

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The Louisiana-based health system hailed the ‘transformational’ gift from the owner of the New Orleans Saints.

Buoyed by what is being described as a “transformational” gift, Ochsner Health is planning to build a new children’s hospital in New Orleans.

Image credit: Ochsner Health

Ochsner Health is building a new children's hospital, aided by a donation from Gayle Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints. (Image credit: Ochsner Health)

Gayle Benson provided the donation to help finance the project. Benson owns the New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. The new facility will be named The Gayle and Tom Benson Ochsner Children’s Hospital, in honor of her and her late husband. The donation comes from the Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation.

Ochsner says the plans call for a five-story, 343,000 square-foot hospital. The groundbreaking will take place in mid-2024, and the health system hopes to open the new hospital in late 2027. Ochsner announced the plans for the hospital this week and held an event to celebrate the new facility Friday.

Pete November, CEO of Ochsner Health, said the new hospital will improve pediatric care in Louisiana.

“Ochsner is deeply grateful for Mrs. Benson and her unparalleled act of generosity, which will significantly impact the lives of countless families throughout Louisiana and the Gulf South,” November said in a statement. “This facility will enable us to care for more children, retain and attract top pediatric physicians and care teams, and continue to set the standard of care.”

Ochsner says the new children’s hospital will enable pediatric patients to be cared for in a facility solely for kids.

The new facility will have a much larger emergency room, with 26 pediatric beds, up from 8. It will also feature a Level IV surgical neonatal intensive care unit, along with 40 ICU rooms and two cardiac cath lab suites.

Vincent Adolph, chief medical officer of Ochsner Children’s Hospital, said the new hospital will reflect the caliber of care we provide.”

“This new space will provide an ideal pediatric and family experience that focuses on each child’s personalized medical needs and their emotional and psychological well-being,” Adolph said in a statement. “It will have everything for kids in one place, designed just for them and their caregivers.”

Image credit: Ochsner Health

Gayle Benson stands with Ochsner Health CEO Pete November in front of an image of the new children's hospital. Benson, who owns the New Orleans Saints, made a donation to build the hospital. (Image credit: Ochsner Health)

In a statement, Benson said the new hospital reflects “a collective journey to forge a brighter, healthier future for the children of our city, state, and region.”

“Ochsner has become a national healthcare leader and destination for patients seeking medical care in virtually every discipline,” she said. “We should all be proud of the world-class facilities and world-class doctors at Ochsner.”

Ochsner didn’t disclose the size of the gift, but said the new hospital will have “a child-friendly and welcoming atmosphere, with colorful and engaging decor.”

Each floor of the hospital will be named after an animal from the Gulf South, with large windows allowing plenty of sunlight.

The hospital will have private rooms, and spaces for parents and loved ones to recharge, including kitchens, lounges, patios and family resource centers. Colorful signs are designed to help patients navigate the hospital more easily.

Robert Hart, Ochsner Health’s chief physician executive, said the hospital is designed to ease “the indescribable burden” parents face when their child is seriously ill.

“This new space will give parents places to rest, recharge, work, and care for young siblings while remaining close by their sick child,” Hart said in a statement.

Ochsner expects that the new hospital will give the health system another advantage in recruiting and retaining top talent.

November said Ochsner already boasts a top-flight pediatrics department, but he expects the new hospital will take it to another level.

“I’m excited for the next chapter for Ochsner Children’s Hospital, and for the families in our community who will benefit from this incredibly generous gift from Mrs. Benson,” November said in a statement.

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