The Jindal administration last week backed a $20 million commitment toward construction of a new children’s hospital in south Baton Rouge.

If approved, the money would be the state’s contribution toward a $200 million facility dedicated to the medical needs of youth, which is on the drawing boards at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. The 130-bed OLOL Children’s Hospital would stand alone off Interstate 10 between Essen Lane and Bluebonnet Boulevard near the Lake’s facilities.

At the request of the Capitol Area Legislative Delegation, the project was added to the administration’s capital outlay proposal, which ranks the various construction projects the governor is backing. House Bill 2, which includes requests for state financial support, must be approved by the Legislature.

“We work with regional and local delegations to identify and fund priorities. The Children’s Hospital is one of the Baton Rouge-area delegation’s top priorities,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said.

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said delegation members are backing the state funding. “A children’s hospital is necessary and important for this area,” he said.

Taxpayer contributions represent 10 percent of project dollars. Other funding sources include a $100 million nonstate bond issue, $50 million from “philanthropy” and $30 million from the Lake’s Children’s Hospital Capital Funds, according to project documents filed with the capital outlay request.

Project planning is expected to be complete by Oct. 31. There is no estimate of when construction would start.

“Our vision is to build a freestanding ... Children’s Hospital with the most advanced treatments and medical specialists for kids from throughout Louisiana and beyond,” said Catherine Harrell, the Lake’s vice president for marketing and communications. “Many believe that building a new facility would be a worthwhile investment, creating an asset for our community and state that would meet the needs of all children.”

The Lake operates its Children’s Hospital program on two floors of the main hospital, located on Hennessy Boulevard off Essen Lane.

The hospital is the second largest provider of pediatric care in the state, serving 90,000 patients a year from all over Louisiana. It has a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week pediatric emergency department and transport team.

The Lake also has one of six St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital-affiliated clinics in the U.S. As an academic medical center, the Lake also houses a pediatric residency program.

Under a public-private partnership agreement, the Lake is home to LSU patient care and medical education programs once located at the now closed LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center in north Baton Rouge.

“Children are cared for regardless of their ability to pay — 70 percent, or 65,100 children, are uninsured or covered by Medicaid,” Lindsay Harmon, an administrative fellow, wrote in funding request documents. “Positioned with our prominent geographic location at the I-10/I-12 corridor in Baton Rouge, our distinguished reputation of excellent pediatric care ... we are well set to become a destination children’s hospital for the state of Louisiana.

“Establishing a free-standing Children’s Hospital will create a distinct environment that accommodates the unique needs of pediatric patients and their families.”

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