In 1904, Memorial Hospital housed one pediatric bed. More than 100 years later, the young ones’ bed count has grown to 100.
In March 2004, the Colorado Springs Children’s Hospital at Memorial Hospital received its official designation as a children’s hospital by the National Association of Children’s Hospital and Related Institutions. The city-owned hospital is one of 250 hospitals in the nation holding the designation.
“Having the title makes it much more attractive to specialists who want to grow and develop programs in their specialties,” said Dr. Barbara Towne, pediatric surgeon and director of quality performance for the Children’s Hospital.
“When you become a children’s hospital, it sends a clear message to the physicians and the community that you are serious about providing care,” said June Chan, administrative director for the Children’s Hospital.
“The Children’s Hospital has been co-created by the people we serve … all children need a hospital just for them. Its essence needs to be centered on the unique personalities of children. My goal is to be the uber guru of family centered care.”
Family centered care at Memorial includes specialty clinics for chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and asthma, and Memorial’s Child Life program, which addresses the psychological and emotional needs of children.
“We have child-life therapists with master’s degrees in child development who get to know the families more than any other provider,” Chan said. “The child-life therapist is safe. They use play therapy to reduce the stress and anxiety related to hospitalization. They know how to approach … a 2-year-old as well as a 14-year-old.”
The therapists also work with families associated with another of Memorial’s niche services, the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This summer, the staff will celebrate the unit’s 31st anniversary, alongside the 21st anniversary of Memorial’s “Celebration of Life” picnic, which recognizes all newborns who were once patients at Memorial, including the babies who died.
But today, challenged newborns have a greater chance of survival.
“In the last seven or 10 years, we’ve made tremendous advances in ventilators … technology has come a long way … non-invasive procedures have helped,” Chan said. She also credits a “phenomenal staff,” an “environment of care” and the Memorial Star Transport, the hospital’s helicopter, which Memorial launched in February 2005.
Penrose-St. Francis Health Services had previously offered the sole helicopter service in the area – Flight for Life. But Chan said Memorial’s helicopter was needed to dedicate transport for southern Colorado babies in danger. The service has met the challenge, she said. “If we’ve got a baby born in Alamosa … we get the baby right away.”
But Penrose-St. Francis is on the heels of Memorial’s corner on the baby market. The new St. Francis Medical Center at Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road, with a projected completion date of 2008, will feature a birth center, a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and a pediatric unit.
“This level of care will strongly be exhibited at our new facility with the best technologies available for treating critically ill children,” said Kathleen Woodard, clinical manager of Pediatrics and Neonatal Intensive Care Services for Penrose-St. Francis.
“Our new facility will house all of our women’s care services on one floor, including anti-partum, labor, delivery, post-partum, nursery, NICU and other women’s issues. We feel this will be a great benefit to our patients. It’s a very streamlined approach.”
Meanwhile, Memorial’s central campus expansion will accommodate the pediatrics and neonatal units in one building and establish a 12-bed emergency room for kids only, Chan said.
It’s need, not supremacy, that drives the two hospitals, Towne said. There has always been a cooperative effort between the two to bridge any gap of service for area families and their children, she said.
“All of the pediatricians are on the staffs of both hospitals,” Towne said. “We have good working relationships with them. The babies might start out at Memorial and go back to Penrose, for example.
“But we’ve taken the initiative to develop the Children’s Hospital.”