Work has begun on the construction of the Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah, located on the grounds of Memorial University Medical Center.

The project will take Memorial’s current “children’s hospital within a hospital” into its own stand-alone building, named in recognition of the generosity of philanthropists Dwaine and Cynthia Willett of Bluffton.

The project got a ceremonial kick-off April 8 with a groundbreaking ceremony attended by healthcare professionals, area dignitaries, and a smattering of children. On hand for the festivities was Miss America, Betty Cantrell of Georgia, who sang “God Bless America” and also visited with young patients at Memorial.

The groundbreaking took a young-at-heart theme, with shovels and hats in bright colors reflecting the multi-colored logo of the Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah. That logo, featuring the hospital name in colorful letters with a kite motif as an apostrophe, is the work of Bluffton graphic artist Jeff Cline.

The building already stands. It is a three-story structure originally built to house Memorial’s inpatient rehabilitation facilities. That operation has moved to the Savannah Rehabilitation Hospital in a partnership with HealthSouth, vacating the building. Over the next 13 months, it will be gutted and retrofitted to become the region’s first dedicated children’s hospital, with opening anticipated in May 2017. Facilities it will include are:

  • A pediatric emergency room, staffed 24 hours a day by pediatric emergency specialists;
  • Four state-of-the-art surgical suites;
  • A pediatric intensive care unit featuring larger rooms with natural lighting;
  • Larger rooms to provide better accommodations for families; and
  • A theater, playground, and a chapel.