When the Spence and Becky Wilson Baptist Children’s Hospital opened one year ago, plans called for 18 children a day arriving in its emergency room.
In fact, “from the moment we opened, we averaged 40 a day,” said Anita Vaughn, chief executive officer of Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women and the children’s hospital that was added to it last year.
Since September, when the “respiratory season” stoked by flu and other ailments arrived, the 10-bed pediatric emergency department has averaged 55 patients. It hit a one-day peak, so far, of 85 in early December, Vaughn said.
From seeing about 7,000 children a year when pediatric emergency services were part of the adult Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis on the same East Memphis campus, Spence and Becky Wilson Baptist Children’s Hospital will see about 16,000.
“So I think we’ve definitely demonstrated there’s a need,” Vaughn said.
That need has led to work underway to install two pediatric intensive care beds by April on the third floor of the women’s hospital, transferring two of six adult slots for children’s use, she said.
“You just have to be able to have that service to be able to do some extra monitoring of kids and respiratory help,” Vaughn said.
Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. officials also are counting on that need to convince state regulators soon that it’s time to open the second floor of the children’s hospital for pediatric intensive care unit beds. It was designed for a dozen, but data on demand will guide how many Baptist seeks.
“It depends on the need, but it could be six or more,” Vaughn said.
The question was when, not if, the children’s hospital would expand on the $14 million project completed a year ago, which included opening the first-floor pediatric emergency department and pediatric diagnostic area. With a total of four stories, the floors above are currently vacant.
Longer term, Vaughn said more inpatient pediatric beds will be needed. Currently, there are 12 on the third floor of the women’s hospital.
Meanwhile, the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation has given $1 million to buy a two-patient transport van that will transfer children from all of the Baptist system’s 14 hospitals in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. It will take about five months for the ambulance-like van to be delivered, Vaughn said.
The children’s hospital startup, in combination with a women’s hospital that delivers 5,000 babies a year, is seeing patients from “everywhere,” she said. About 72 percent have health coverage through Medicaid, the federal and state government-funded program known as TennCare in Tennessee.
The children’s hospital has led to about 50 more positions, she said. It’s recruiting for more doctors, such as pediatric intensivists, as well as nurses, among others.
Baptist children’s hospital startup is “a general hospital with some signature services,” such as its ophthalmology program, Vaughn said.
That’s in contrast to the acute-care, regional trauma and academic Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, which first opened in 1952 and is part of the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare system.
Gillian Ray, vice president of external relations for the Children’s Hospital Association in Washington, said that the models for children’s hospitals are diverse. About 220 nationwide are members of the association.
“There’s a saying in the children’s hospital community and that is if you’ve seen one children’s hospital, you’ve seen one children’s hospital,” Ray said.