El Paso Inc.
Posted: Sunday, May 6, 2012 6:00 pm | Updated: 9:33 am, Mon May 7, 2012.
By David Crowder El Paso Inc. staff writer El Paso Inc.
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El Paso Children’s Hospital has been open a little less than three months and is defying early predictions as its beds fill and the pediatric emergency room gets busy.
“It’s much farther ahead of the curve than we anticipated,” said CEO Larry Duncan of an occupancy rate that topped 50 percent in April, the start of a traditionally slow season for children’s hospitals.
“We are thrilled with how it has progressed,” he said. “And, when I say thrilled, I don’t mean I’m thrilled children are sick. I mean I’m thrilled that we have the opportunity take care of them.”
The children’s hospital has filled 405 of its 421 positions, most of them for nurses.
The 122-bed, $122.5 million not-for-profit hospital opened Feb. 14, taking the top four floors of a new 10-story medical building next to El Paso County’s University Medical Center, formerly Thomason Hospital.
The same day, UMC opened its 103-bed Women’s Pavilion, the new quarters for its labor and delivery department, on the three floors below the children’s hospital.
All told, the building cost $235 million, with the price tag for the children’s hospital at $120 million. Voters approved funding for the children’s hospital in a 2007 bond election.
UMC, its Women’s Pavilion and the children’s hospital operate in partnership with Texas Tech University’s Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, its physicians and interns.
Duncan said the average daily census of patients at the children’s hospital rose from 41 in March to 64 in April, when occupancy peaked at 71.
“We’re experiencing a rise in other areas as well,” he said. “Before opening our doors, about 25 kids a day were seen in the pediatric emergency room at UMC. When we opened, it jumped almost immediately to 40, and we’ve been averaging 45 kids a day with a range from 35 to 70.”
From opening day through April, emergency department visits totaled 3,381.
Early projections showed 8,000 to 10,000 visits to the pediatric emergency room in the first year. That number will top 15,000 if the trend continues, Duncan said.
Since recruiting began last year, the children hospital’s has hired three pediatric specialists from the Regional Children’s Hospital at Providence. The latest is Dr. Ben Carcomo, a children’s cancer specialist, whose April 1 move has brought over patients.
Carcomo could not be reached for comment, but Duncan said, “Dr. Carcomo saw that we already had two hematologists/oncologists on staff here.
“He knew that we are going for national certification, and he understood that working as a group of three is not only going to be easier on his quality of life but would allow for a better care of his children than being a solo practitioner.”
The other two physicians who came from Providence were pediatric radiologist Chepoan Moorthy and Marc Orlandi, who is now chief of pediatric anesthesiology.
Both doctors had been dividing their time between child and adult care and wanted to concentrate exclusively on children, Duncan said.
Rob Anderson, an executive with the Sierra Providence Health Network in El Paso, said they’ve hired new physicians to replace Carcomo, Moorfi and Orlandi, and they are recruiting additional pediatric specialists.
Anderson agreed the influx of pediatric specialists to both hospitals has significantly improved children’s medical care in a community that has long been underserved by top-flight children’s specialists.
“Carcomo just recently left, and I would love to have him here? You betcha,” said Anderson, who is Sierra Providence’s associate administrative director for business development. “But the good thing is I’ve got several physicians who have taken his place, so we’re not losing momentum.”
Tenet, the parent company of the four Sierra Providence hospitals in El Paso, had opposed the creation of El Paso Children’s Hospital.
“We built a great pediatric oncology program here, and it’s kind of flattering to have them wanting to emulate us,” Anderson said. “It’s easier to take people that have already been successful than to go out and find their own.”
Duncan said he hopes that over time, the two organizations will find ways to work together.
“I think there are models that will allow us to do that,” Duncan said. “We just need to get to a point where we’re ready to sit down and have those conversations.”
E-mail El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at email@example.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.