By Tara Rack-Amber
Situated on the second floor of the Uniontown Hospital is a place that serves as a haven for parents and children that are looking to receive in-patient pediatric care a little closer to home.
As part of a $2.2 million renovation project that also includes the hospital’s Clinical Decision Unit and Infusion Service Center is the brand new Pediatrics Unit.
“It is less about growing the size of the hospital and more about meeting the needs of the community,” said Josh Kyrsak, manager of community relations at the hospital.
Sue Milsom, clinical director of the Clinical Decisions Unit and Infusion Services who also provides oversight of the Pediatrics Unit, said the facility previously had a pediatrics unit, but then moved these patients back into the general population of the hospital.
The pieces started to fall into place when the hospital found the right person, pediatrician Dr. David Patton, to serve as the medical director of the unit. There will be two other pediatricians, Dr. Duy Nguyen and Dr. Anthony Broering, also seeing patients in the unit. There are also 33 staff members that will be trained in pediatric care.
“We will care for kids [with] general pediatric issues, dehydration, asthma, bronchitis, fever, UTIs (urinary tract infections),” said Patton.
However, according to the doctor if a pediatric specialist is needed, those patients would need to be transferred to a different hospital.
Since the pediatric unit is still in its infancy, just opening on June 1 and Patton coming on board July 11, some select patients, who are not within the pediatric age range of zero to 18 years, have been placed in the unit.
“Because we are starting to gear up the service line, we do put some selective patients here,” said Milsom who also mentioned that this time of year is traditionally low when it comes to pediatric admissions to the hospital.
The new renovations have a newly created “hub and spoke” layout that was designed specially by the hospital’s CEO, Steve Handy.
At the center of the floor is a nursing station that is circular so no one at the station would have their back to each of the hallways that radiate out of the center area. This was especially important when it came to safety with the pediatric unit.
“One of the reasons we designed [the floor] this way is so pediatric patients and families cannot take their child out of here,” explained Milsom.
Starting Sept. 1, the unit will have a new security program in place called The Hug System.
“A child will be banded. If they go past a certain point an alarm will go off, the doors will lock and the elevators will lock,” said Milsom.
The hospital’s security department will then need to be called because only they will know the security code to deactivate the alarm.
A similar program is currently in place in the hospital’s Family Beginnings Birthing Center.
Including the safety protocols, the pediatric unit is also designed for both children and their parents in mind.
Because children are often more apprehensive than adults about painful procedures, the unit includes a special treatment room to take care of these tasks.
“We also have a dedicated treatment room. You don’t want to associate pain with where they are sleeping,” said Milsom.
“I think mostly the painful procedures are out of the room,” said Patton. “In pediatrics [that] is really important.”
Another area that was specifically created with children in mind was the colorful and bright playroom that contains many toys, a pack and play, walkers, bouncers and more. There are even portable game systems that can be wheeled into a patient’s room.
Even the community has become involved in providing comfort to children who visit the pediatric unit.
“We give all the children a blanket. It is provided by Project Linus. Every child gets one (a blanket to keep) when they are admitted,” said Milsom. “The Renegade Hogs collect money and give them a toy and donate the rest to the hospital (during Christmas). Last year they donated a TV and a pack and play.
“They (pediatric patients) typically aren’t planning on staying when they come to the emergency department, so we give them a toy.”
While the children are the first and foremost concern of the pediatrics unit, the parents’ comfort is also taken into consideration.
“The parents that stay with them, we offer them breakfast and a place to shower and change clothes,” said Milsom who also said that the couches in the rooms also fold down into beds that they will provide sheets for. “Sometimes if the child is here longer we encourage a grandparent or an uncle to come to give the parents a break. Sometimes if they don’t have someone else it is not unusual to see a patient in a highchair, walker or pack and play at the nurses’ station.”
With this new pediatric unit in place at Uniontown Hospital, Milsom said that she hopes it provides a place for parents to take their children that is a little closer to home and in turn lightens the burden for families.
“We didn’t have a dedicated unit and we are always looking at ways to keep people here. There were children from the emergency room going to Children’s Hospital (in Pittsburgh),” she said. “Many parents can’t afford to travel back and forth to Pittsburgh.”
“We want to provide a place for the community where pediatric patients can stay in the community, the parents can be comfortable and confident in the care they are having,” said Patton. “I hope it is a resource here to the community.”