EL PASO — Progress on the $120 million El Paso Children’s Hospital is most evident in the steel and concrete tower rising from the earth near University Medical Center.
Although the hospital won’t open for two more years, it already is beginning to attract pediatric subspecialists to El Paso and to increase the number of pediatric physicians here.
“The opportunity to participate in the development of the new children’s hospital and the development of the medical school were major attractions,” said Dr. William McIlvaine, a pediatric anesthesiologist. He practices at University Medical Center and will move his work to the independently operated children’s hospital when it opens in 2012.
McIlvaine is employed by the new Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.
“As far as I know, I’m the first board-certified, fellowship-trained pediatric anesthesiologist in El Paso,” he said.
He said he has been busy since he moved to El Paso from Los Angeles in September.
“The demand right now at University Medical Center is substantial — we see a lot of newborns that need surgery,” he said “Infants and children are not small adults, and the needs of infants and children and their families are different than of adults.”
Jim Valenti, chief executive officer of UMC, is also handling that job at the developing children’s hospital. But a national search has begun for a CEO, and the job probably will be filled in the summer.
Recruitment of other doctors and health-care professionals also continues.
“We are attracting a lot of individuals who have roots in El Paso and who want to return to El Paso, or who have spouses or family from El Paso who want to come back,” Valenti said.
He said the children’s hospital and medical school are a good package to present to possible transplants.
“The children’s hospital helps the medical school by providing clinical opportunities for learning, as well as for the nursing schools of UTEP, the Texas Tech School of Nursing and the community college,” Valenti said.
He said the medical professionals who have arrived or soon will arrive are in neonatology, perinatology, adolescent medicine, child development, endocrinology and in the pediatric specialties of surgery, anesthesiology, orthopedics, oncology, infectious disease, pathology, radiology and emergency medicine. A pediatric intensivist has also been recruited.
In addition, UMC has started a pediatric intensive care transport team and a neonatal intensive care transport team to bring children from elsewhere in the region to the hospital.
Valenti said the children’s hospital and the medical school are working together to recruit a physician in chief for the hospital who will also be the chair of pediatrics at the Foster School of Medicine. That hire is expected to be made by this spring.
Dr. Clint Woosley, who specializes in pediatric critical care, arrived in El Paso in December 2008. He said he was attracted by the construction of the children’s hospital, which is to open in spring 2012.
“It’s a chance to really build a program and make an impact on the community,” he said. “What interested me was coming to a place that really cares about building quality programs.”
Voters approved construction of the children’s hospital in November 2007. Construction began on Feb. 14, 2009. Children’s hospital officials will celebrate the placement of the last piece of structural steel on the building during a ceremony on Feb. 13. At the peak of construction, 600 workers will be on site at once.
The hospital will occupy the top five floors of the 10-story tower being constructed. Its lower floors will encompass UMC’s mother-baby unit.
The children’s hospital will have 146 patient beds and encompass 225,000 square feet.
It will feature a 50-bed nenonatal intensive care unit, 22-bed pediatric intensive care unit, operating room suites, procedure rooms, an emergency department and areas for oncology, pediatric radiology and pathology.
Some of the units will be housed in a second building to be constructed north of the tower.
The lower floors of the large tower will house UMC’s labor and delivery units, nurseries, maternal-child units and postpartum rooms.
Among the features of the children’s hospital will be oversize patient rooms to accommodate several family members at once.
Sam Legate, chairman of the El Paso Children’s Hospital Board of Directors, said construction should be completed by about fall 2011.
“This will provide help to children who aren’t getting it otherwise,” he said.
Legate said development of the children’s hospital, together with the opening of the medical school, the expansion of University Medical Center, the development of the Texas Tech campus into a full-fledged Health Sciences Center, and ongoing advancements at the University of Texas at El Paso’s School of Nursing will dramatically improve the state of the region’s health-care system.
“We’ll become a go-to city for health care,” he said.
The evolution of the region’s health-care services is evident to the health-care professionals who have already made the leap to work in El Paso.
“I think that so far El Paso is a great secret of the Southwest and West Texas,” said McIlvaine, the pediatric anesthesiologist.
“As it’s discovered, it will grow substantially. The development of the medical school and the opening of the children’s hospital are indications of that.”
Erica Molina Johnson may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6132.