An Aug. 7 forum on Children’s Hospital’s expansion plans brought complaints from residents about historic preservation and minority hiring.
The hospital’s plan, which calls for the construction of a 12-story, state-of-the-art hospital positioned 200 feet from Parsons Avenue and lined by six acres of new green space, came immediately under fire from residents like Linda Welch.
"We’re not a modern neighborhood," Welch stated. "We don’t mix well with the designs you have in store for us."
The hospital’s demolition of historic houses it owns on Anne Street, to make way for a larger Ronald McDonald House for families of patients, came under fire earlier this year.
In addition to the new patient wing of the facility, a new energy plant and a new parking garage – already under construction on Livingston Avenue – will accompany a new research building on the hospital’s main campus.
The expansion comes as a result of the hospital’s 71 percent increase in patient visits since 1998. Its emergency department is regarded as the second-busiest in the nation, and as more services have become available through the hospital, the number of patients has skyrocketed.
The plan hopes to also capitalize on the new I-70/71 interchange at Parsons. The campus’s new design boasts that traffic conditions will be improved in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The hospital has identified three goals for its expansion: to make more beds available for sick children; to increase research capabilities for the hospital’s faculty and students; and to provide prevention and education programs for surrounding neighborhoods.
Other tangible benefits will come along with the growth of the facility.
"Over 1,000 jobs will be created in a number of fields," said Jeanette Thomas, a human resources representative on hand to inform residents of the career opportunities available through the plan.
The presentation seemed to have little effect on the 25-member audience.
As the hospital currently serves over 700,000 patients a year – with only 500,000 of them
Franklin County residents – representatives of the surrounding neighborhoods voiced their distrust with Children’s motives.
Resident Don Tidwell, who called the presentation a "dog and pony show," accused the hospital of ignoring the employment needs of minorities
"Children’s has a historically terrible record with minorities," Tidwell began. "There are 60,000 blacks in this area, and they make up 30 percent of this city’s population, though we are yet to hear about a program for minorities through this hospital."
Tidwell continued by claiming that the contractors who have been hired to build the new facilities, such as the parking garage , are all white construction workers who were brought in from outside the area.
A retired contractor, Tidwell lamented that the core of the problem was the attitude of Children’s management, who he claimed have been "anything but good neighbors."
"We need to put people to work in this community," he remarked.
Angela Mingo, a community relations representative from Children’s, responded that the hospital is seeking minority contractors to renovate their newly-acquired 49 residential properties spread throughout the surrounding area.
Children’s next open house takes place on August 21 from 6-8 p.m. at the Columbus Public Health Department at 240 Parsons Avenue. Residents not able to attend are encouraged to offer their comments by calling the hospital’s community feedback line at 722-2695.