Parents of sick kids will soon have an easier time getting to some specialists' appointments.
Riley Children's Health is investing about $1 million to open a pediatric specialty office on Fort Wayne's north side, officials announced Wednesday. Plans call for the office to open by mid-January.
Matthew Cook, Riley Children's Health president, said during a phone interview that the relatively modest price tag understates the provider's serious commitment to the community.
The 6,000-square-foot leased space at Coldwater and Cook roads will include 12 exam rooms and be wired for telemedicine consultations.
But the emphasis will be on in-person visits.
The office will open with pediatric urology and cardiology specialists each treating patients two or three days each month. Some specialists, including Dr. Mark Cain, already commute from Indianapolis to Fort Wayne to see patients regularly at either Lutheran Hospital and Fort Wayne Pediatrics.
The new Riley office will put all the local clinic visits under one roof and allow for expansion.
Cook hopes to add up to four specialties by the end of 2018. Among those being considered are gastroenterology, pulmonology, hematology and plastic surgery.
Families now traveling to Indianapolis for office visits will be affected most. Northeast Indiana patients made more than 10,000 clinic visits to the Riley Hospital for Children campus in Indianapolis last year.
Riley Children's Health is the statewide pediatric health system. Riley Hospital for Children is its main hospital location. Both are under the Indiana University Health umbrella.
Last year, when Lutheran Children's Hospital announced a $4 million investment, officials said many local residents don't realize how much Lutheran offers for young patients, including care for diabetes, digestive disorders, developmental delays and breathing problems.
Not all seriously ill children need to be referred to Riley Hospital for Children, they said.
At the same time, Riley doesn't limit treatment to the most critical cases, Cook said.
“I think there's the perception you have to be really sick to come to Riley, and that's not true,” he added.
Local patients who are able to schedule appointments in the new Riley office will still need to travel to Indianapolis for surgery and other in-hospital procedures, however.
Cook emphasizes that Riley isn't angling to steal patients from Lutheran Health Network or Parkview Health. In fact, Riley officials reached out to Lutheran and Parkview before finalizing its expansion plans. They also talked to Riley patient families.
“Everybody was universally enthusiastic about it,” Cook said.
Riley's specialists will continue to coordinate patient care with local specialists and family doctors working for both Fort Wayne-based health systems, he said.
Cook wants to provide care that isn't already available in the local market.
Riley Children's Health provides specialized pediatric care in 19 communities in Indiana. According to its Facebook page, Riley Children's Health is nationally ranked in 10 of 10 pediatric specialties by U.S. News and World Report for 2017-18.