The campus of the new Primary Children’s Hospital in Lehi will bear the name of its most generous donor.
The 486,000-square-foot facility, a companion to the 98-year-old Salt Lake City children’s hospital, will rest on the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Campus. Lisa Paletta, a registered nurse and the administrator of the new Lehi hospital, made the announcement in a virtual “groundbreaking” event Thursday.
Gail Miller — businesswoman, philanthropist and widow of auto dealership tycoon and former Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller — said in January that her family would donate $50 million to build the Lehi hospital, to be administered by Intermountain Healthcare.
Intermountain’s plan for the new hospital “is not just impactful, it’s innovative and comprehensive,” Miller said during Thursday’s virtual event. “It’s really going to be exciting to watch this hospital take shape as it becomes part of the nation’s model health care system for children in the Intermountain West.”
Construction on the new hospital is expected to be completed in October 2023, Paletta said, and it should open sometime in early 2024. The L-shaped building will have a five-story “patient tower” and a three-story medical office complex.
The price tag, Paletta said, would be $335 million. That’s part of $500 million Intermountain has committed “to build the nation’s model health care system for children,” Paletta said.
The Lehi hospital will have room for 66 beds, plus a medical surgical unit, a pediatric intensive care unit, a surgical newborn ICU, a behavioral health in-patient unit, emergency and trauma services, and room for art, music and dance therapy.
Paletta said the Lehi hospital will extend the reach of the Salt Lake City children’s hospital, which now draws a third of its patients from Utah County — “the nation’s hotspot for pediatric population growth,” she said — and the south end of Salt Lake County.
For Jacob and Teri Partida in Utah County, a shorter drive would have reduced some of the panic when their 4-year-old daughter, Brailey, was severely injured in a lawn mower accident in August 2016.
Brailey was taken to a nearby hospital, then flown by helicopter to Primary Children’s in Salt Lake City, said her father, Jacob Partida. “A few minutes’ flight for her, but it was really about a 45-minute drive for us, one of the longest drives of our lifetime,” he said during Thursday’s virtual event.
The Partidas praised the care their daughter received, during three days in the ICU and 26 more in the hospital. “They tended to Brailey’s every need,” Jacob Partida said, adding that the hospital also provided resources, including grief counseling and social workers, to him and his wife.
Brailey, now 9, said she remembers having water-gun fights with the nurses during her stay. Jacob Partida said such play would be a reward when Brailey took her medicine.
Brailey lost part of her right leg in the accident, and suffered damage to her lower back, the Partidas said. Today, though, Brailey is an athletic 9-year-old who enjoys basketball, soccer, swimming and running, as well as riding her scooter and her bike. “There’s nothing she can’t do,” Jacob Partida said. “She’s living a normal life. She’s a very happy, very fun girl.”
“A hospital can be a terrifying and traumatic experience for anyone, but especially so for children,” Miller said, recounting trips to Primary Children’s when she was a young mother, and when both her grandson and great-grandson received life-saving care there at birth.
Miller will help lead fundraising for Intermountain’s efforts to grow its model health system. The effort recalls, she said, the “Pennies by the Inch” fundraising campaign Primary Children’s launched in 1922 — when children were asked annually to donate a penny for each inch of their height.
“I can remember doing that faithfully as I was growing up, and just hoping I could grow each year to get more pennies,” Miller said. “It taught me that every person can give, and every penny we give makes a difference — no matter if it’s one or 10 or 20 or beyond.”
In September, Miller donated a different kind of coin to help Primary Children’s. She put up for auction her late husband’s collection of rare coins — estimated to be worth at least $25 million — with the proceeds going to build the Lehi hospital. The coins are expected to be sold by mid-December.
The original Primary Children’s Hospital was founded in 1922, across the street from Temple Square (where the LDS Conference Center now stands). The hospital moved to a larger facility in the Avenues in 1952, and to its current location on the University of Utah campus in 1990.