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Hospitals Form Partnership to Improve Pediatric Care Access

Ben Cole, for HealthLeaders Media, January 18, 2010

Wheeling (WV) Hospital and Children's Hospital Pittsburgh of UPMC have announced a partnership that officials say will improve access to pediatric specialty care for children and their families in the Ohio Valley region of West Virginia.

Wheeling Hospital is a 276–bed facility located in Northern West Virginia between the Pennsylvania and Ohio borders. Through the partnership, several pediatric subspecialty physicians from Children's Hospital Pittsburgh of UPMC will have rotating office hours each week on the Wheeling Hospital campus. The Ohio Valley is a region that covers parts of West Virginia and Ohio, and Wheeling Hospital sits in the Valley itself.

Wheeling Hospital Chief Executive Officer Ronald L. Violi says his organization is "very excited" about the move, which he says will provide much-needed specialty care to children in the region.

"Up until this point, if you had a child and lived in this area, you were driving minimum an hour, hour and a half to get to a pediatric facility—all of that is out of the way," Violi says. "And if you had to take a kid back for repeat visits, every time you had to go back you had to make that drive. Now, they can get all that done right here."

The new Children's Hospital Specialty Care Center Wheeling provides outpatient services—including diagnostic evaluations and follow-up care—in pediatric cardiology, general and thoracic surgery, otolaryngology, neurology, and hematology/oncology services. Pediatric gastroenterology and orthopedic surgery are coming soon as well.

"These services will kind of rotate their care there," says Children's Hospital President Christopher A. Gessner. "They may be there once a week, they may be there twice a month, depending on the needs of the community. We spent a lot of time working with the local pediatricians to determine which specialties would really add value there and the frequency of which they would be needed."

By having the sub-specialty services available closer to home, it increases the likelihood that they will receive timely care, Gessner adds. Children's Hospital Pittsburgh of UPMC is located about an hour away from Wheeling Hospital, but it is the closest children's hospital, he says.

"I think we wanted to improve access to the children in the upper Ohio Valley," Gessner said. "We know that when a child needs to come to Pittsburgh it can be very nerve-wracking and a difficult time for them and we'd really like to be able to provide that follow-up care back in their local community."

Violi adds that while the Ohio Valley had "wonderful" core pediatricians, there were no pediatric subspecialists in the region up until a few months ago when the subspecialists started being brought in via the partnership.

Over the past two years, Wheeling's Center for Pediatrics has rapidly grown, but more specialized care was needed locally, Violi says. Now, Children's Hospital UPMC is helping fill much of that void and allows children and their families to receive a high level of care close to home, he says.

"It will benefit patients because today, if you get kids coming in here who the pediatricians can't get diagnosed [and] don't know what's wrong with them, we can move them while they are on site to a pediatric specialist who specializes in heart, EMT, cardiovascular . . . so they can get diagnosed here," Violi says.

"If for whatever reason they have to leave the Valley, they leave for a few days, get whatever work they need done [and] then they get back and can get all their post operative care here as well."


Ben Cole is an associate online editor with HealthLeaders Media. He can be reached at bcole@healthleadersmedia.com.

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