Golisano Turns Five: A Look Back, A Leap ForwardChildren's Health
It’s been an amazing five years at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
In 2017, the community gathered to open our beautiful, award-winning facility next door to HealthPark Medical Center in South Fort Myers. Golisano – which officially turns five on May 10 – features expert providers, state-of-the-art technology, and special treatments and programs designed specifically for kids. All so children don’t have to travel far from home.
“We took a child, we surrounded that child with his or her parents, and then we built a hospital around them,” says Dr. Emad Salman, Lee Health regional medical officer. “It’s always about the children and their families and how to make their life better at every moment.”
“It is a magical place—it’s a place that really provides care. It helps children get better.”
Throughout the past five years, the Golisano staff has put patients and families at ease as soon as they walk through our doors.
“Children are not small adults, so the techniques, the expertise that’s needed to care for children is very different—plus they’ve all sorts of all other emotional and social needs,” says Larry Antonucci, President and CEO of Lee Health.
Southwest Florida has experienced unprecedented growth in the past five years. Our staff has risen to the challenge – they continue to innovate, inspire, and lead the way into the future. That means that we regularly respond to what our community needs and go out of our way to provide a comfortable, rewarding environment for kids and their families.
“The care of children is such an important part of what we do and such an important part of our families here in our community,” Dr. Antonucci says. “and when you think about what would happen if we didn’t have a children’s hospital, it’s really amazing the impact on families.”
The groundbreaking at Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida.
The momentum for Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida started with a $20 million gift by Paychex payroll processor founder and philanthropist B. Thomas Golisano in 2012. Within a year, the community had matched his donation.
To date, the Lee Health Foundation has donated more than $21 million to help fund programs, including establishing the SWFL Children’s Charities Eye Institute.
Through gifts large and small, the seven-story, 128- hospital opened with half of its $200 million costs funded by philanthropy. In all, some 14,000 people, including school children, donated to the construction of the hospital.
Five years later, community financial support continues. Donations include proceeds from children’s bake sales, events such as fashion shows, tennis and golf tournaments and large grants from area foundations.
Kids’ Minds Matter and Behavioral Health
Kids’ Minds Matter, a grassroots fundraising and advocacy group for expanding pediatric mental health services, has raised more than $10 million since 2016, funding that expands mental health services for youth, increases the availability of behavioral health providers, creates educational and resource programs and more.
In addition to programs at the hospital, philanthropy has helped expand services throughout Southwest Florida. Recently, The Wasie Foundation pledged three challenge grants of $1 million each to add pediatric neurosurgical services at the hospital, create a behavioral health facility in Bonita Springs, and expand the Naples Pediatric Specialty Clinic to have the ability to care for more patients closer to home.
“Our hope is for improved access and care for children needing mental health services, pediatric oncology and specialty services, or pediatric neurosurgery,” said Jan Preble, vice president of programs for The Wasie Foundation. “Ultimately, we want to assist Golisano Children’s Hospital in creating a better quality of life for children facing various health challenges.”
Golisano Children's Hospital under construction.
Special Services and Expansion
Many things make Golisano Children’s Hospital special. It is the only children’s hospital between Tampa and Miami. It is home to the region’s only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Perinatal Intensive Care Unit (PICU).
Golisano includes comprehensive pediatric services, including a hematology-oncology unit and a 24-hour pediatric emergency department designed especially for kids and their families.
Golisano also features a dedicated child life and child advocacy team, a milk lab, social workers, music therapists, volunteers, teachers, pharmacists, and others who are dedicated to caring for children with compassion, kindness, and respect.
Currently, Golisano has 135 beds, and 70 of those are in the NICU. Others include 36 medical-surgical beds, 16 pediatric ICU beds, and 13 hematology-oncology beds
Community support will continue to be vital to expanding front-line programs to meet the needs of area children, including:
- Expanding the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)
- Education, Recruitment, Retention and Research
- Neurosurgery is a new program that provides immediate care for brain and spinal cord injuries, so children don’t need to be transported to a hospital far away
- Expanding the Emergency Department, which has seen an increase from an average of six patients a day to 138 patients per day
- Expanding the Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU), which at one point in 2021 had 80 babies admitted to the 64-bed unit
“We’ve grown exponentially in the last five years,” Dr. Salman says. “Our goal is to make sure that the number of kids that have to leave this area every year gets less and less to the point that no child will need to leave Southwest Florida for their care.”
B. Thomas Golisano and Dr. Emad Salman walk with two youngsters at Golisano's grand opening in 2017.
More than just patients
Our fifth anniversary is an exciting time – a time to reflect on the challenges overcome and the level of care our providers continue to achieve. But the thing that keeps staff energized and drives them forward is the relationships they form with patients and their families.
This, truly, is what sets Golisano apart.
“That means everything to us. That is our true north, and that is why we do what we do here every single day,” says Alyssa Bostwick, Chief Nursing and Operations Executive at Golisano.
Courtney Satkoski is just one parent who has shared her rewarding and special experience with the Golisano team. Her son was diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis after being in the NICU.
“You do feel a lot of confidence being in a space where—I called it the think tank—where everybody is pulling together, whether it’s nurses, nutritionists, surgeons, and they’re all talking about where they’re seeing the angle of the situation. That was my most comforting time,” Courtney says.
“It was a very family center feel, and for me, information was comfort. My son wasn’t just a number, he wasn’t just a patient. For that time, he was a member of the family here.”
Indeed, that’s been the mantra for the past five years and one that will continue – for the next five years and beyond.
“The dedication and the commitment that every single member of the team shows every single day is amazing, and it’s palpable when you walk through the building, and that is everybody that works here,” Bostwick says.
Dr. Salman agrees.
“It makes me very proud to hear stories where we made a difference in someone’s life.
“Every single day, there’s a lot of magic that happens within this facility. We touch somebody’s life, we save a life, we create a future for the child, and that is something that is the most gratifying.”
For information on how you can support Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida for the next five years, visit GiveGolisano.org.
To see a complete list of services we provide, visit Lee Health's Golisano home page.
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