Seattle City Council to discuss Children's Hospital expansion plan

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by JANE MCCARTHY / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on November 11, 2009 at 8:56 AM

SEATTLE - You may have heard the radio ads:  Seattle Children's Hospital says it needs to grow from 250 beds to 600 in the next 20 years.

One week from Wednesday, the Seattle City Council will hold its first meeting on the controversial proposal. While the hospital says it only wants to grow based on need, some people are opposed to the project size.

Seattle Children's staff is seeing a growing number of young patients. They say a lack of space  is forcing them to turn away as many as 80 children a year.

For the past two-and-a-half years, the hospital has been working on expansion plans.  Their proposal:  an additional 1.5 million square feet that would occupy the adjacent property of the Laurelon Terrace condominiums.

"They have not addressed the major issue of the square footage," said Jeannie Hale, Laurelhurst Community Club.

The Laurelhurst Community Club has been vocal in its opposition to such a large expansion in their single family neighborhood.

"This is a single-family, low-density area and their growth pattern needs to be consistent with the surrounding area," said Hale.

A hearing examiner agreed, recommending the Seattle City Council deny Seattle Children's expansion request.  Now, the group Friends of Children's Hospital is calling attention to what they call a critical decision by the council.

The group sponsored a radio ad, which says, "The most important medical procedure of the year won't be performed by a team of surgeons.  Instead, it lies in the hands of the Seattle City Council."

If the council does not approve the expansion plan, Children's says it will be in an ethical bind if they don't have enough beds.

"Then it really becomes unethical, irresponsible of for us to say, 'Oh, we can do less,'" said Ruth Benfield, vice president of Seattle Children's.

And ultimately they say they may even be forced to move.

"I think that's something one has to always think of," said Benfield.

The Seattle City Council's Planning, Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee will have its first meeting on the proposed expansion on November 18th.

Despite pleas from Friends of Children's Hospital for a final decision from the council by the end of the year, the council says the budget and election turnover will make that impossible.

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