People at the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital Open House on Nov. 2. There were 1,200 attendees at the event. MEENU JOHNKUTTY/THE STATESMAN

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital Open House showcased its $73 million four-story addition in an event boasting over 1,200 registered attendees on Saturday, Nov. 2. 

The open house allowed community members to explore the hospital’s new infrastructure. New features include patient rooms with multi-colored wall lights, hospital beds that capture and transmit patients’ data directly to their charts and nautically-themed art and live video feed from the Long Island Aquarium. Other new additions to the hospital include a general pediatrics ward, a pediatric procedure suite, separate child and teen playrooms and an outdoor rooftop garden. 

As a nod to Stony Brook’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, bright blue dolphin-shaped balloons adorned the walls and entrances of the hospital, highlighting the marine elements found in the hospital’s design. While celebrating the hospitals’ new infrastructure, the hospital staff prioritized educating the community at various tables. Families roamed from table to table, learning about various topics, including sugary drinks and safe sleeping positions for babies. 

Those working at the hospital were seen tabling events, talking to families and speaking to children and adults alike. At the “Rethink Your Drink” table, Sydney Kurnit, a master’s student in nutrition and diet and a dietetic intern, and her classmates explained sugar content in popular drinks like Gatorade and fruit drinks. 

“We wanted to make the community aware of how much sugar was in their drinks,” Kurnit said, explaining that consumers of sugary drinks should carefully check serving sizes on nutrition labels. 

Dr. Susan Katz, a pediatric nurse practitioner,  at the “Sleep Safety for Babies” table, demonstrated how babies should sleep on their backs in cribs, free from heavy blankets and toys. 

“Babies should be alone on their backs in the crib,” Katz said, explaining that when people sleep with their babies, they risk rolling on them and potentially killing them.

Other events at the open house included meeting with a pet therapy dog, climbing aboard an ambulance and touring the hospital. 

Dr. Margaret McGovern, physician-in-chief of the Children’s Hospital and pediatrician of 30 years, oversaw construction of the Children’s Hospital. When she arrived as Chair of Pediatrics in 2007, McGovern said that she and her team recognized that much work was needed to advance pediatric health care in Suffolk County. 

“There’s about 440,000 children in Suffolk County, so that size pediatric population absolutely justifies and supports the notion of having a separate Children’s Hospital,” McGovern said. “We had experts and national figures in children’s health care look at the feasibility of such a project.” 

Over the past decade, the hospital has built up its intellectual infrastructure, with over 180 full-time pediatric specialists working for the Renaissance School of Medicine, McGovern explained. 

“Any sick or premature baby winds up at Stony Brook,” McGovern said. “We have the only burn unit in Suffolk County and about half of the patients at any time are kids.” 

Apart from structural work on the hospital, McGovern and her team have strived to make the patient experience as comfortable as possible. Single-bedded rooms will now be available for patients as a part of this new initiative, she said. 

“This is not a luxury or a frill,” McGovern said, regarding the new feature. “There’s a lot of research and data to support single bedded patient rooms. We can promote infection control, more privacy and allow more families to comfortably stay with their kids. When children are accompanied by a parent or caregiver, they recover better. Their hospital stay is less traumatic.” 

Michael Reed, a former patient at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, spoke highly of the physicians and his stay in the hospital. This coming February will mark the sixth year since his kidney transplant. The new single-bedded rooms appealed to Reed.

“I feel like with those new rooms, it will be a better environment for patients,” Reed said. “It’s like a warm welcome, in a way.” 

Since the program’s inception in 2010, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital has scaled tremendously, now standing as the only children’s hospital in Long Island to have single-bedded patient rooms and the only children’s hospital in Suffolk County, according to Kali Chan, director of medicine media relations.

“This project absolutely resonated with families and members of the community and is something important to have in Suffolk County to provide the best care for kids,” McGovern said.

The building of the Children’s Hospital is part of a larger $450 million project designed to expand Stony Brook Hospital through the construction of a 10-story hospital pavilion and cancer center, according to Chan.

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