Why did MultiCare decide to build a new children’s hospital?

The first Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital opened in 1955, in what is now the east wing of Mary Bridge Children’s Health Center in Tacoma. In 1987, the need for more space drove the hospital to move its inpatient services into its own space in Tacoma General Hospital, and it has been there ever since.

While the hospital has continued to fulfill its vision to provide specialized pediatric care, co-location inside an adult-services hospital meant that Mary Bridge Children’s could never provide the completely child-focused experience the hospital’s young patients and their families deserve. The shared space is simply not optimized to meet the needs of children and families. In addition, in recent years, sharing services across the two hospitals has presented increasing challenges.

How will this new hospital benefit the entire Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Network?

This new children’s hospital will support the growth of our pediatric primary care network and increased access to specialty care centers throughout our service areas, ensuring that children and families have care close to home. Strengthening the performance of the hospital and network helps sustain important programs and services not covered by insurance across the network.

What are the advantages of having a free-standing building?

Giving Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital its own space allows us to deliver services to our pediatric patients that are fully designed for them. Shared spaces between Tacoma General and Mary Bridge Children’s — like the hospital operating rooms and imaging facilities — means some services are delivered to children as if they were “little adults,” which, while effective, is not ideal for pediatric care.

Separate and dedicated access to our Pediatric Emergency Department will provide a better pediatric experience and care delivery for families who need emergency care for their child. The new hospital will also allow us to be a destination surgical center of excellence serving patients from the tiniest neonates through adolescents.

In addition, we can more effectively create a completely kid- and family-friendly environment when Mary Bridge Children’s isn’t tucked inside an adult-focused building.

Finally, the new children’s hospital will be designed and built to be one of the most efficient and safest children’s hospitals in the nation. We are utilizing a lean-led redesign of our current workflows before we start on the blueprints of the new hospital. This will ensure that we have hard wired safety and high reliability into our design while gaining efficiency and lowering our long-term operating costs.

Where will the hospital be built?

The new hospital will be located in the vicinity of the current Tacoma General campus, on the sites currently occupied by Jackson Hall, the Jackson Hall parking garage and the east wing of the Mary Bridge Children’s Health Center. It will be a beacon of care and hope for children at the corner of Division and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

What will happen to the tenants in Jackson Hall and the clinics in the east wing of the health center?

As part of our long-term Tacoma campus improvements, we will increase our outpatient services on campus through renovation of existing space and some new construction on campus and throughout the region. In addition, we are planning additional parking to increase parking capacity on our Tacoma campus.

In the short term, we will be relocating MultiCare and Mary Bridge clinics and offices currently in those spaces to other parts of the Tacoma campus. As those spaces are identified, we will update staff and patients accordingly.

Non-MultiCare tenants of Jackson Hall were notified of this project earlier this year and MultiCare is assisting them with finding new office space.

Jackson Hall includes the South Sound Region’s only large meeting space. Are there plans to replace it?

A large conference room/meeting space is not currently planned to be added to the Tacoma campus. Our Webex virtual conference capabilities should be able to accommodate large meetings. For meetings that must take place in person, we have other conference rooms available that can accommodate the majority of meetings that take place on campus, and there are large community meeting spaces available nearby.

When will construction start?

We anticipate that Jackson Hall demolition — the first stage of this project — will begin towards the beginning of 2021, after all the building tenants have had a chance to relocate.

When will the new hospital open?

Our current schedule calls for this new hospital to be open for patient care by the end of 2024.

Why 2024?

MultiCare’s Tacoma campus and surrounding neighborhoods do not offer much open space for new construction. In order to make a new hospital building possible, a number of other construction projects — such as removing existing buildings and adding a new medical office building and parking areas — must be completed so that the hospital construction can take place.

You are taking away a lot of parking. Are you adding more?

Yes. Our construction plan calls for additional parking on the Tacoma campus, but we have not yet finalized those plans.

How big will the hospital be and what services will it offer?

Plans for the hospital design have not yet been finalized, but we anticipate that the new building will be approximately 300,000 square feet, and include all the services currently available from Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.

Planned features for the hospital include:

  • All private rooms in the Medical/Surgical and Pediatric Intensive Care units
  • A pediatric emergency department
  • Ten operating rooms to support a surgical center of excellence
  • Hematology/Oncology clinic and infusion center
  • Dedicated imaging, lab and pharmacy services
  • Hybrid interventional cardiac catherization and interventional radiology suite
  • Shelled space for future growth

How many beds will the hospital have?

When the hospital opens, we anticipate there will be 82 beds available for patient care.

How much will building the hospital cost?

We have just started planning the design of the new facility and do not have a full picture yet. Costs for the hospital construction are currently expected to be around $300 million.

Will there be a fundraising campaign to support the new hospital?

Community generosity has been the driving force behind Mary Bridge Children’s since 1955. The Mary Bridge Children’s Foundation is currently in the very earliest stages of planning a campaign to support this new hospital. Announcements will be made when the campaign launches. In the meantime, donations to help patients of Mary Bridge Children’s may be made at supportmarybridge.org.

With all the cost-savings measures currently in place to help MultiCare recover from COVID-19 financial losses, why is the organization committing to spending so much money on a new building?

The plan for a new Mary Bridge has been underway for more than two years. Our commitment to ensuring that kids in our community have the right care has not been waylaid by the pandemic. In fact, the current situation has highlighted a need to expand access to care across the Pacific Northwest. The South Sound community needs a new children’s hospital and it’s our privilege to build one.

The entire project is part of our organization's vision to become the highest value system of health in the Pacific Northwest.

While we have some short-term cost structure challenges, we are committed to doing what is right for our patients, especially the children we serve, and we have consistently built the financial reserves necessary to invest in our future.

Will this create more jobs at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital?

Yes. We anticipate needing to hire additional staff, particularly in areas that are currently shared with Tacoma General like nutrition services, pharmacy, lab and imaging. We do not have additional details at this time, and it will probably be several years before we need to do additional hiring. New positions will be posted on the MultiCare Careers site as they become available, and all MultiCare and Mary Bridge Children’s employees are welcome to apply.

Will current Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital employees have to apply to work at the new hospital?

We anticipate that all Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital employees in good standing at the time, and who work on a floor or for a department that is moving to the new building, will simply re-locate when the hospital opens.

Will Adolescent Behavioral Health move to the new hospital?

No. Tacoma General’s Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit will remain a part of Tacoma General Hospital.

What will MultiCare do with the old Mary Bridge Children’s space?

We anticipate that the space created when Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital services are relocated to the new building — including the emergency department — will be backfilled by Tacoma General Hospital services. No decisions have been made as of yet.

How will this new facility affect traffic and parking in the area?

Traffic and parking in and around MultiCare’s Tacoma campus — as with any urban hospital campus — can be challenging. Potential impacts to traffic and parking as a result of this project are a major consideration that we are keeping in mind. It is too soon in the process to know with certainty what any of those impacts may be. MultiCare will work closely with our design and construction partners, the City of Tacoma and all other stakeholders to address and mitigate any challenges that may arise both during construction and after the new facility is open.

Will you expand Tree House to accommodate more families/patients?

Our Tacoma campus improvement plans include Tree House. More details will be shared as they are developed.

Will Tacoma General and Mary Bridge Children’s continue to share any facilities or services after the new hospital is built?

When the new hospital is complete, Tacoma General and Mary Bridge Children’s will no longer share any physical space. Some services, like core lab and nutrition services, will continue to be shared by both facilities. Other services, such as pharmacy and imaging, will function as standalone services in the new children’s hospital, designed specifically to serve the needs of pediatric patients and run separately.