By Cindy V. Culp , Tribune-Herald staff writer – reprinted from the Waco Tribune-Herald
With the opening of its new children’s hospital just a few months away, Scott & White Healthcare announced Tuesday it has entered into a partnership with a Houston pediatric hospital considered one of the best in the nation. The relationship with Texas Children’s Hospital will bolster Scott & White’s goal of providing comprehensive pediatric care close to home, CEO Dr. Robert W. Pryor said.
Central Texas families too often have had to travel long distances to major metropolitan areas to get care for their children, he said. Scott & White could have filled much of that service gap on its own, hospital leaders said. It has hired 40 additional pediatricians to work at the new $82 million children’s hospital in Temple, they said. But partnering with Texas Children’s will allow Scott & White to do even more, officials said.
The Houston-area hospital — ranked the fourth-best pediatric facility nationwide by U.S. News & World Report — boasts a medical staff of more than 1,500 physicians and dentists. Those doctors will treat some patients at Scott & White facilities and also consult on cases remotely, officials said. That will mean fewer local patients having to travel outside the region, they said. In situations where a trip to Houston still is needed, the partnership will help ensure coordination of care, they said.
“I know it sounds a little hokey,” said Dr. Mark W. Kline, physician-in-chief and chairman of pediatrics at Texas Children’s. “But I like to think of (the partnership) almost like it’s a 150-mile hallway or corridor connecting Texas Children’s and Scott & White. The ultimate beneficiaries of this will be the children of Central Texas. Waco is right in the heart of that area.”
The terms of the partnership say it will last 20 years. But the expectation is the new relationship will continue indefinitely, officials said, adding that no money or other financial incentives are involved.
Scott & White announced two years ago that it would open a stand-alone children’s hospital. It now has a pediatric hospital inside its main hospital in Temple. But the health care system wanted to expand its offerings and put it in a separate location. The new hospital is located in the old King’s Daughters Hospital building, which Scott & White acquired in a buyout. Set to open in early October, it will have 64 beds.
The facility will be the only free-standing children’s hospital between Dallas and Austin. Those cities are where local families have usually traveled for specialized pediatric care.
Hewitt resident Krista Martin said having such care closer to home will no doubt be a blessing for many local families. Her 6-year-old daughter, Emma, has needed specialized medical care since birth. The family regularly travels to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, sometimes as often as six trips a month, Martin said. Gas costs for those trips add up quickly, as do the time and energy required, she said. Martin said she will keep taking her daughter to Cook because of the long-standing relationship the family has with physicians there. But for families with children who newly need care, Scott & White’s facility may be a godsend, she said. “Temple being 30 minutes away is wonderful,” Martin said.
Scott & White officials began talks with Texas Children’s Hospital about 18 months ago after realizing there were certain pediatric services it couldn’t provide even with the new hospital. They mostly involve rare conditions that affect only a small number of patients, said Dr. L. John Boyd III, CEO and chief medical officer of Scott & White’s children’s hospital. Scott & White wanted to make sure it had a partnership to facilitate care for such patients, he said.
“It’s almost like they’re not leaving Scott & White,” Boyd said. “The handoff will be fluid. The records will be shared. Doctors will talk to each other. We’re all one another. It’s not like referring patients to another facility.” But the partnership has many other benefits, the doctors said.
A number of the specialty programs Scott & White is launching as part of the new hospital will progress more quickly because of the Houston system’s expertise, pediatric department chairman Dr. Madhava R. “Reddy” Beeram said. That will be key for Waco-area patients, Beeram said, because doctors from those specialities will travel to clinics within the Scott & White system. That includes Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center clinics in the Waco area, he said. Similarly, doctors doing pediatric training at both Scott & White and Texas Children’s Hospital will do hands-on work at sites throughout the Scott & White system, Beeram said.
The fact that Hillcrest delivers nearly 3,000 babies annually makes the Waco hospital a promising clinical site, he said. Hillcrest CEO Glenn Robinson said some of the newly hired specialists have already started seeing patients at local clinics. And the hospital’s new programs — such as a pediatric emergency department — mean some patients that Hillcrest might otherwise transfer to more distant hospitals can be sent to Temple, he said. “I am so excited about what this means,” Robinson said of the partnership.
Kent Keahey, CEO of Providence Healthcare Network in Waco, said he doesn’t think Tuesday’s announcement will affect Providence’s business or its plans to significantly grow its primary care network during the next few years. Providence doctors likely will refer some patients to the new facility, Keahey said. But they also will no doubt keep referring patients to the Dallas and Austin children’s hospitals as well, he said.
Facts about Texas Children’s Hospital:
• It is part of Texas Medical Center in Houston, which bills itself as the world’s largest, with nearly 50 institutions.
• It is a nonprofit organization.
• The hospital is affiliated with the Baylor College of Medicine and has one of the largest pediatric doctor training programs in the country.
• The hospital has several Centers of Excellence, including cancer and heart centers.
• It is ranked fourth best among the nation’s children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report.
• The hospital has cared for nearly 1 million children in the past 10 years.
• Its medical staff consists of more than 1,500 physicians and dentists.
Source: Texas Children’s Hospital