Akron Children’s still growing

New $31M emergency department needed to meet high demand

A ceremonial groundbreaking took place Wednesday for the expansion of the emergency department at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley in Boardman. From left are Paul Olivier, vice president, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley Enterprises; Joni Ehrhart and her daughter, Avery, 5, of New Middletown, a patient of the hospital; Grace Wakulchik, president and CEO of Akron Children’s; Lenny Fisher of Liberty with his great-niece, Batsheva Cousin, 3, of Columbus; and Dr. Mary Costello, clinical director of the emergency department at the Boardman hospital. Staff photo / R. Michael Semple

BOARDMAN — The emergency department at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley opened in 2008 with capacity to treat 80 patients in a single day. It’s now averaging 125 to 135 patients per day, and, at its peak, the number rose to 200.

That’s really all the proof that was needed to expand the facility, which Akron Children’s is doing with a $31 million investment into what will be a whole new emergency department at the Beeghly campus on Market Street.

“We’re not just building an expansion of the emergency room. We’re actually tripling the size and creating a whole new facility for patients of the (Mahoning) Valley,” said Paul Olivier, vice president, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley Enterprises.

On Wednesday, ground for the new space was ceremonially broken. The project is expected to take 12 to 15 months to complete.


The new space will increase the number of treatment rooms from 17 to 23 and add 34,700 square feet to the existing 9,600-square-foot emergency department. Also, each treatment room will be larger than what exists already.

In addition, the number of behavioral health treatment rooms will increase by two to three, and the number of triage rooms will grow from one to two. The building also will have two dedicated resuscitation rooms, one more than it has now.

The behavioral health rooms will be multiuse rooms depending on the need in the department, said Dr. Mary Costello, clinical director of the emergency department at the Boardman hospital.

“They will be able to flex as the emergency department sees fit from medical patients back to behavioral health depending on the day’s demands, and I think this is essential,” Costello said. “Every day is different in the emergency department and I love being adaptable with our surroundings.”

As customary with construction projects at Akron Children’s, the emergency department was mocked up with cardboard using blueprint dimensions. The walls, door entrances, cupboards, sinks and more were moved within the mockup to determine to best meet the needs of the department.

“In the end, this was all done to provide a more efficient space to care for our patients and their families,” Costello said.


There were several donors who supported the project with gifts of $100,000 or more. Among them was Lenny Fisher, chairman of the board of Mahoning County-based Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream, who donated $1 million toward the project.

In recognition of his gift, Akron Children’s named Building A on the campus the Leonard J. Fisher Family Building.

“I’m pretty fortunate in my life, successful, worked hard. If you can’t give, you can’t share, what is the point of having it? I’m not the guy who needs five cars, five houses and have to have my own yacht. You give back to the community, and the community gives back to you. We’re successful because of the community.”

Over the years, including Fisher’s $1 million gift, Handel’s has raised $1.6 million for Akron Children’s.

Fisher said he became aligned with Akron Children’s after the closing of Tod Children’s Hospital. His family’s association with Tod Children’s began after his son, Joshua Abraham Fisher, was born in 1982 at the former Northside Hospital with gastroschisis, a birth defect where a child is born with its intestines outside of its body.

“So from that point on, we got associated with Tod’s. We used to raise money for Tod’s also. We did that for years until they closed and then Akron came to be in 2008, I said we need to align ourselves with another children’s hospital,” Fisher said.

Others who donated of at least $100,000 are Farmers National Bank, Florence Simon Beecher Foundation, Cafaro Foundation, Moran Family / Window World of Youngstown, Youngstown Foundation and Jenny Kennedy.


Joni Ehrhart of New Middletown, a mother of three, called her family “frequent flyers of the ER,” having been to the emergency department over the years for respiratory illnesses, broken bones and concussions.

It was in February when her daughter Avery, 5, injured her back at a trampoline park. X-rays done at the Boardman emergency department revealed the young girl had two fractures in her lower back. They also revealed something unknown — that Avery had a defect in her spine, Ehrhart said.

“Now because of the ER’s findings, we go once a year for an X-ray to make sure that she is growing properly and has no problems,” Ehrhart said. “I just can’t say thank you enough for the ER and all its wonderful people and helping my daughter. We found a defect we would have never known. We could have had issues, and now we can properly care for her.”


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