Sid Eskenazi: New hospital was 'right thing to do'

Lois and Sid Eskenazi
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It's believed to be the largest gift ever given to a public hospital in the United States: $40 million from an Indiana couple to an Indianapolis hospital. The Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital - sometimes referred to as the new Wishard Hospital - was inspired by the memory of a poor childhood.

The new hospital, located between West 10th Street and Michigan Street, is directly west of the current Wishard facilities. It's already taking shape, and Eyewitness News joined Sid Eskenazi for a tour recently.

Sid and Lois Eskenazi's $40 million gift made it happen.

"I'm lucky to do what I've been able to do," Sid Eskenazi told us. "This is going to be a world-class facility with hospital convenience."

The new Wishard Hospital - Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital - will be able to take care of thousands more when it opens next December, and every patient will have their own room.

"It was the right thing to do. You look at this and say, 'this is the legacy we would like to give our city, our state. This is it,'" he said. "I enjoy working. I'm just sharing some of what we've done with my friends and the people of Indy."

Eskenazi remembers the old Wishard Hospital. He grew up on the south side of Indianapolis.

"Not many people wanted to go City Hospital. It was only for the poor," he said.

Eskenazi knew those "poor families" well. His family was one of them. The lawyer turned real estate developer grew up on Kansas Street.

"We didn't have much as kids, and I've been able to do well," said Eskenazi.

He hasn't been back in decades, but the passionate Hoosier can tell you everything that used to be on his old block. He let us tag along.

"These people used to be good friends of ours. And the lady that lived on the end had a wonderful restaurant on Michigan," he said, pointing out different houses. "You would walk from here up to the corner. You would see kids from further south, walking to go to Emmanuel High School."

Eskenazi's father died when he was 13. With help from his uncle, he went to IU Law School. He says he always dreamed of success.

"I've always felt that name recognition was important. I've always been curious when I've seen a name, who was that person, what did he do? Why was he able to do that? Could I do something like that in my life?"

Standing on one of the upper floors of the new building and donning a hard hat, Eskenazi said, "It's just great up here. I mean look at our city, how pretty it looks."

The Sky Farm is one of the Eskenazi's favorite designs of the new hospital.

"We are going to teach people how to grow veggies in their homes," he explained. The peaceful view enhances the hospital's educational mission as a teaching hospital for IU School of Medicine.

"You do something and it leads to something else. And people say, 'I can do it. Maybe I should do it.' I don't know, but that's my theory," he said.

Over a five-year period, Wishard has served more than 450,000 residents in Marion County. The new individual patient rooms include an area for families to stay close to their loved ones. We're told Eskenazi Health is on time, and under budget. That's welcome news to Sid Eskenazi, who grew up counting every single penny.

Learn more about the hospital.