BOSTON (CBS) – A beloved garden was the focus of a public hearing on a $1.5 billion dollar plan to expand Boston Children’s Hospital.
The proposal would replace the Prouty Garden with an 11 story tower aimed at upgrading the hospital and adding bed space.
Critics of the plan say the garden has been a therapeutic sanctuary for sick kids at Children’s for decades. Elizabeth Richter, who testified at the hearing Thursday, remembers taking her brother David Horton there when he was suffering from a brain tumor. His ashes were also spread in the garden when he died at age 12 in 1973.
“We remember David with joy, we laugh at some of the silly things that he did. It’s just a place where we can be private and together,” Richter said.
The expansion would include an enhanced Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and 61 additional beds in the Intensive Care Unit. It would also convert more than a hundred double bedded rooms to single bedded rooms.
Supporters of the project say the additional space has been needed for years.
“From a surgical list standpoint, we have a waiting list of three months. And these aren’t patients who need surgery in three months. These are patients who can have surgery now,” Cardiac surgeon Ram Emani said.
NICU nursing director, Cheryl Toole, said due to the lack of space infants in her unit can be as little as five feet from each other.
“It’s not at all unusual to have one family getting ready to go home after months of being in the hospital with their critically ill child who’s finally survived and healed and literally separated by a curtain from another family who may be having life support withdrawn,” Toole said.
The expansion would also create three new outdoor spaces in lieu of the Prouty Garden. Opponents claim the spaces are too sterile and are not designed with children in mind.
“To kill an ancient and beloved tree with which many children had their last contact with their mother Earth, betrays our mission of healing,” Director of BCH’s Center on Media and Child health Dr. Michael Rich testified.
State regulators must approve the hospital’s proposed expansion. Regulators have asked the hospital to pay for an independent study to show how the project would impact health care costs.