San Antonio.- Until now, San Antonio was the only large metropolitan city without a children’s hospital. In fact, of the 5000 hospitals in the United States, just 250 are specialized to treat children.
But on Sept. 20, our city’s status changed thanks to CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System’s new free-standing Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. On that day, from neonatal intensive care to children’s emergency services, titanium rib implants, a heart program especially designed for kids and a specialized asthma program, the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio was fully accredited by the Joint Commission, the predominant accrediting organization in health care.
And with the backing of the 7th largest Catholic health system in the U.S., Children’s Hospital of San Antonio will be transformed without taxpayer dollars. In Bexar and surrounding counties, the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio is also the only recipient of funds from the national Children’s Miracle Network and the only nonprofit children’s hospital in San Antonio.
The new institution has lofty goals, too. More than just creating a space with staff and equipment completely geared for young patients, the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio will be immersed in child care, the education of pediatric health professionals, research and advocating public health policy on behalf of children.
The transformation of the new campus, located on Santa Rosa in downtown San Antonio, is just getting underway, but the hospital is open, complete with a fully refurbished Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). When completed in Sept. 2014, the new hospital will have 800,000 square feet of space devoted exclusively to children’s health, including about 275 beds.
The cost to refurbish the hospital was $135 million – a far cry from the $400 million needed to create a new entity from the ground up by the medical center.
The design process was divided into four steps: increasing patient safety, increasing operational efficiency, creating positive family experiences and increasing support for the academic mission including education and research.
Marcy Doderer, vice president and administrator of the hospital, took La Prensa on a tour of the NICU and PICU.
What immediately stood out is that in each room on the intensive care floors there was a daybed so family members could comfortably stay with their little patients 24 hours a day.
“If you’ve ever had a child in the hospital, you probably spent a night or more in one of those reclining chairs, and that’s if the hospital allowed you to stay with your child at all,” Doderer said. “That’s why we decided to provide the full-size bed in the rooms for mom or dad.”
She explained that at the Children’s Hospital, they understand children fare better when at least one family member is there to support them.
The director of the PICU, Dana Roman, BSN, agrees.
Roman explained the hospital is also heavily invested in a Child Life program that employs master’s prepared individuals who administer therapeutic intervention and education through play – a program that is not reimbursable by insurance.
“As nurses, we feel very supported by Child Life because in critical care it’s a tremendous resource for the patients, the staff and the families,” she said.
New kid-friendly art work and waiting rooms with fun activities punctuate hospital corridors to make the hospital setting much less intimidating for kids and tiny tots, but most of the millions of dollars being invested are devoted to making the hospital cutting edge with state-of-the-art equipment for San Antonio’s youngest patients.
One mobile unit for babies that looks like an incubator is a virtual emergency room unit itself, Doderer explained. The single apparatus, which cost more than $30,000, can handle just about any emergent medical need and can be used to transport babies in-house or from hospital to hospital. The hospital also operates the only heart lung bypass machine in our city for children -- known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
Unable to join forces with Bexar County and the local medical school earlier this year, UTHSCSA ended their relationship with CHRISTUS Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, a 60-year legacy of serving children in South Texas on Sept. 7.
As a result, the new hospital will now align with the Texas Children’s Hospital, the top-ranked children’s hospital in Texas and the fourth in the nation and with the Baylor School of Medicine, which will start a brand new training program here in 2014. Doderer estimates they will have at least 12 to 15 fellow slots and about 65 residents training in at least ten different subspecialties.
The Children’s Hospital will offer a pediatric kidney program, already nationally-recognized for providing dialysis and transplant management; pediatric cardiac program; pediatric thoracic and spinal disease/titanium rib program; the Cystic Fibrosis Center (CF) the only center in South Texas committed to serving all the needs of children with CF; Cancer Care; the Center for Miracles; a Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) making it the highest-level care for babies born prematurely in South Texas.
The nonprofit is also a member of the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas and the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions, an important feature because it allows the institution to collaborate across the board with the best talent in pediatric medicine.
For more information about The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, visit www.Christussantarosachildrens.org.
Angela Covo is a reporter for La Prensa de San Antonio. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.