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Lutheran to build pediatric ER

Believed to be 3rd such emergency department in state

Lutheran Health Network will build a pediatric emergency department onto its southwest Fort Wayne hospital, officials announced Monday.

An official with the Indiana Hospital Association believes it’s only the third emergency department in the state designed exclusively to treat children – and the first outside Indianapolis.

But a local rival has taken child-centered care one step short of a separate ER. In October, Parkview Regional Medical Center designated five of its 40 emergency department beds for treating children, spokesman Eric Clabaugh said.

Details of Lutheran’s plans – including the project’s price tag – will be announced at 1 p.m. today in a news conference on the Lutheran Hospital campus.

The 7,100-square-foot addition will be adjacent to the hospital’s main emergency department.

The event, which is scheduled to include comments from Lutheran Hospital CEO Brian Bauer, kicks off construction. Dr. Susan Frayer, who will be medical director of pediatric emergency services, is also expected to speak.

Lutheran Children’s Hospital was created in 1999, using the “hospital-within-a-hospital” concept. A treehouse elevator carries young patients to the third-floor pediatric outpatient clinics and inpatient ward.

But pediatric services are not limited to one contiguous space within Lutheran Hospital, spokesman Geoff Thomas said. Instead, pediatric areas decorated with colorful, whimsical designs are spread throughout the facility.

Lutheran’s philosophy is that “children are special people, not just small adults.”

More than 75 pediatricians specializing in 27 areas are affiliated with the hospital, which has served thousands of northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio families since it opened, according to Lutheran Children Hospital’s website.

Spencer Grover, vice president of the Indiana Hospital Association, knows of only two other separate pediatric emergency departments in the state: Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent.

Hospitals aren’t required to report designated emergency areas to the State Department of Health, so it’s possible that another hospital in the state has a pediatric ER, Grover said.

He was unaware of Parkview’s designated area, which is decorated with cartoon characters, including Sammy, the Samaritan helicopter.

The Peyton Manning facility is most similar to Lutheran’s setup, as a hospital within a hospital, Grover said.

Patients benefit when hospitals specialize in certain types of cases, including cardiac, spine and pediatric, Grover said.

When doctors and nurses repeatedly see similar cases, they gain more expertise in treating them. Designated pediatrics treatment rooms are outfitted with smaller instruments, low-dose radiation imaging machines and other specialty items, he said. And health care providers can keep up with the latest research more easily when they have a narrower focus.

Specialized emergency departments are a trend in health care.

Michigan-based Trinity Health has opened numerous geriatric emergency rooms in the past few years.

The rooms are larger to allow family and other caregivers to stay during exams and share critical information with hospital staff.

Larger examining rooms work well for young patients for the same reason, health care experts say.

Parkview Health officials opted not to include specialty emergency rooms at Parkview Regional Medical Center, which opened in March 2012. Instead, they chose a design that would be “as flexible as possible,” an official said last July.

That flexibility includes examining rooms that have two doors, allowing visitors to enter and leave without disturbing other emergency patients.

Also solid walls and doors block noise better than curtains, which were commonly used as dividers in emergency rooms 10 years ago.

The decision to designate five of 40 treatment areas for children was made last fall.

Riley Hospital for Children has perhaps the premier pediatric ER in the state. The Indianapolis facility has Indiana’s only Level I pediatric trauma center and Level I pediatric burn center.

The hospital participates in one of only three training programs in the nation that combines emergency medicine and pediatric residency.

Parkview Children’s Emergency Care Center has earned a Level II certification, which is a step below Level I. It’s unclear what level Lutheran Children’s Hospital hopes to achieve.

Riley treats more than 245,000 patients a year, including 34,000 in its emergency medicine and trauma center, according to its website.

Riley also is a 2-hour drive from downtown Fort Wayne.

Despite the distance to Riley, it makes sense to offer a specialized emergency department only if patient volumes justify it, the Indiana Hospital Association’s Grover said.

Children are just the most recent patient population that Lutheran and Parkview have competed for.

Both health care providers offer specialized care for patients with various conditions, including cardiac and orthopedic needs.

“Generally, it is a very competitive situation up there,” said Grover, who is based in Indianapolis. “And I’m sure they’re both working real hard to serve the community.”