Parents staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Augusta could one day soon be just steps away from their child’s hospital.
The University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted to allow the demolition of the Georgia Health Sciences University Telemedicine Center Building at 983 St. Sebastian Way and then donate the 0.54 acre where the building sits to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta. The group has been hoping for a site like that for years and it would solve a number of key problems, Executive Director Betts Murdison said.
One is distance - the current facility on Greene Street is over a mile and a half away from Medical College of Georgia Children’s Medical Center, where almost all of the families have a patient being treated.
“We are too far away from the hospital, period,” Murdison said. Another is the current facility is a 140-year-old house that is not handicapped accessible.
“That is a huge roadblock for a significant number of our families,” Murdison said. The current facility only has 11 bedrooms, some without private bathrooms attached, and that limits the number of families that can be served, she said.
“We are full almost every night,” Murdison said. “We could serve so many more families if we had a new modern facility.”
The new site is also next to the parking deck for the children’s hospital, which would eliminate the need for putting in much parking at the new site and allow for greater use of the space for the new building.
“It’s a fabulous use for this little piece of land, when you think about it,” Murdison said. In its request to the regents, the university said it would be for a 22,500-square foot facility that would house the families of 22 children but Murdison said the actual planning has yet to be done. It is too early to say how many bedrooms there will be or put a dollar figure on the project, although she thinks it might be at least $5 million. Corporate approval and major gifts have yet to be lined up but now that the land is in place all of that can begin, she said.
“Now we can move forward with our plans to fundraise and build a house,” Murdison said. “We had to get this piece in place first.”
The university is also excited that the project is going forward, said Phil Howard, vice president for facilities service.
“That will really advance our mission,” he said.
Just being there close by will be a comfort for those parents whose children might be in the hospital overnight, Murdison said.
“The important thing is when the families go to bed at night, they’ll be able to look out their window and they will see the hospital and think, ‘My child is right there. If they need me, I can be there real fast,’” she said.