Providence Health Center has joined Dell Children’s Medical Center in opening a new pediatric emergency center at the main Providence campus on State Highway 6 at Medical Parkway.

It created space in the general emergency area, designating nine rooms specifically for infants and youngsters.

The collaboration between Providence and Dell, which operates a pediatric emergency center in Austin, will provide enhanced pediatric care that is more accessible to the Waco area, Providence spokeswoman Erin Rogers said.

“Colorful paint and murals make the area kid-friendly and inviting,” Rogers said.

Funding for the venture came from Ascension, a nonprofit Catholic health system Providence Health Network and Dell Children’s Medical Center both are members of.

Providence did not provide a figure on exactly how much it has spent to create its pediatric ER.

Dr. Nicholas Steinour, medical director for the Providence emergency department, said planning to make Dell’s resources available to Providence started about two years ago.

“Once we received the go-ahead, it took a lot of organization and collaboration to get it off the ground,” Steinour said. “We decided to make use of our current emergency department, to refresh it and have nine dedicated rooms for pediatric emergency care, including two that we are calling critical rooms.”

He said about 40 of the 210 people the Providence emergency area sees daily range in age from newborns to 18-year-olds. These are the patients the pediatric area will serve.

Providence is not a trauma center that can treat victims of violence or motor vehicle accidents, Steinour said, but otherwise it is equipped to handle most emergencies that would bring youngsters to the hospital for critical care and treatment.

“The most common complaint of those bringing kids to the emergency room is upper respiratory infections,” Steinour said.

Providence will assign at least one doctor exclusively to its pediatric emergency room during busier times, while five physicians will work in tandem to serve the main ER and the pediatric unit.

“We launched this program partly to raise awareness in the community,” Steinour said. “We are trying to enhance the care of children here and we decided the best way to do that was through collaboration with partners within the organization.

“We are combining our efforts and learning from each other. We are having doctors from Dell Children’s Hospital work some shifts here, especially in the early stages.”

Providence will use emergency care guidelines and best practices developed by experts at Dell, along with “telemedicine” tools to link directly to Dell physicians if the need arises.

Providence staffers are being trained in techniques to help reduce stress and anxiety that kids and families can experience during illness, injury or hospitalization, according to information provided by the hospital. Youngsters and their families also will have access to a separate waiting area.

Responding to Providence’s decision to open a pediatric emergency center, Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center spokesman Scott Clark sent a press release.

“We already are integrated with McLane Children’s Medical Center in Temple and have been for many years,” according to the press release. “Our emergency department team consults with McLane Children’s emergency medicine physicians for pediatric care and to scrutinize cases for possible higher-level care needs. When necessary, we transfer to nearby McLane Children’s, which is only 30 minutes away.

“We have an integrated electronic medical record, and when a child is seen at Hillcrest that record and its notes can be seen in real time by our medical teams at nearby McLane Children’s, which is a Level II pediatric trauma center, and the only dedicated pediatric trauma center in our part of Central Texas.”

Steinour said Providence can transfer patients to Dell Children’s in Austin and does so a “few times a week.”

Privately owned freestanding emergency rooms added in the area have not lightened the load at Providence, he said.

“We have not seen a reduction in visits, though we have seen an increase in acuity,” Steinour said. “Those who come here are sicker and have more complicated problems. The freestanding ERs don’t really impact us, in part because they only take commercial insurance.”

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