In a letter from Dr. Greg Hudson to the Portsmouth Daily Times, signed by five physicians, Hudson said. “Since the time I began practicing in our area until a few weeks ago, our local hospital maintained a Pediatric Nursing Unit. In this unit were well trained and experienced pediatric nurses who dedicated their professional lives to care for our sick children,” Hudson wrote. “During the eighteen and a half years I have lived here, the administration at Scioto Memorial Hospital/Southern Ohio Medical Center has graciously continued to fund this unit even though it was not a money maker. They understood that some things in life are more important than making money. Sadly, as of Monday, Sept. 28, the Pediatric Inpatient Unit at SOMC will no longer exist.”
Hudson wrote that until a few weeks ago, all children admitted to SOMC were cared for by nurses who chose to develop expertise in the field of pediatric nursing, “Then a significant, disappointing change was made by the SOMC administration. The Pediatric Unit I described above was done away with and replaced with what was called the Orthopedic/Family Care Unit. The pediatricians in our area anxiously watched to see how this change would affect the nursing care given to our patients. What we saw ourselves and what we heard from our pediatric nurse colleagues concerned us greatly,” Hudson wrote. “Our patients were being cared for by nurses who, although well meaning, were not experienced in caring for sick children and pediatric nurses were forced to care for adults with medical problems they were not familiar with.”
In a response letter from the administration, Randal M. Arnett, president and CEO, and Dr. Kendall L. Stewart, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer, appeared to agree with several of the suggestions made by the doctors, and appeared to have even complied with some of them, but then stated: “We do not agree with this recommendation. We will not create a dedicated inpatient pediatric unit at this time.”
Despite the fact that the administration had, by letter, already responded to the Hudson correspondence, the Times contacted SOMC for a response to the letter.
The response opened with — “Southern Ohio Medical Center takes seriously an obligation to our patients to provide the highest quality of care. For the past 10 years, SOMC has cross-trained nursing staff to care for both adults and pediatrics. This is standard of care for a community our size.
“We want to provide our patients with excellent care at the highest safety standards. We have consulted our pediatricians and have determined that consolidating all pediatric care on the main campus to the Emergency Department, where the majority of our children are seen, makes sense,” said Claudia Burchett, vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer.
The response continued — “SOMC has and will also continue to care for children at the Urgent Care Center and the SOMC Healthcare Center.”
SOMC treats approximately 25,000 children in the Emergency Department and Healthcare Center and at the Wheelersburg Urgent Care Center. Malissa Warrick, nurse manager of SOMC’s Orthopedic and Family Care Unit, said an overwhelming majority of admitted patients were discharged within 24 hours. SOMC’s history and collaboration with Children’s Hospitals has significantly helped SOMC deliver the most appropriate care when needed.
At any point that a treating physician believes that a patient should be admitted as an inpatient, SOMC will arrange for admission to the appropriate unit or upon physician order, transfer to a specialized children’s hospital.
“SOMC physicians can admit patients under the age of 18 to one of our existing inpatient units when appropriate,” Burchett said. “Children that require procedures such as an appendectomy or tonsillectomy, will, as they always have, be cared for by our skilled nursing staff.”
“We have a staff of skilled clinicians who have been treating children for many years. The addition of the observation area will only heighten our focus on our pediatric patients,” said Dr. Jason Cheatham, director of Emergency Department Operations at SOMC.
Cheatham said the majority of pediatric patients that present to the emergency room are treated and released.
“We truly have an amazing staff who have always been able to determine whether a child needs to be admitted or treated and released,” said George Pettit, MD, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at SOMC.
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at (740) 353-3101 Ext. 232