New services will provide families with convenient access to high-quality orthopaedic, ENT and inpatient care for children with acute medical conditions, including specialized accommodations for neurodiverse patients
WEXFORD, Pa., Sept. 20, 2023 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- Allegheny Health Network (AHN) announced today that it is expanding the scope of its pediatric services and capabilities at Wexford Hospital, providing children and families in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh with new, convenient access to high-quality inpatient care for children with acute medical conditions as well as those with orthopaedic and ear, nose and throat (ENT) conditions. The expansion also includes specialized accommodations for neurodiverse children.
AHN Wexford's emergency department has been equipped to provide care for children – from birth through age 18 – since the facility opened in 2021, providing parents with a high-quality, close-to-home option when their child requires emergent medical care. With this latest expansion of services, pediatric patients who require admission to the hospital for extended observation or medical treatment can now do so at AHN Wexford.
"When your child is sick or hurt, every minute counts. Parents and caregivers in the North Hills can now take comfort in knowing that not only do they not have to drive into the city for pediatric care but, should their child require an overnight stay, they can be cared for right here at Wexford in many cases," said Allan Klapper, MD, president of AHN Wexford. "This is a significant milestone for AHN Wexford, and for our community."
A cornerstone of the pediatric expansion at AHN Wexford is the addition of a team of pediatric hospitalists, nurses specifically trained in pediatrics, pediatric physical and occupational therapists and a child life specialist, all of whom provide comprehensive care for children and their families. The hospital is now one of three within Allegheny County with 24/7 pediatric hospitalist coverage.
"Pediatric hospitalists are available around-the-clock to care for children suffering from acute conditions which could include respiratory infections, gastrointestinal illness, dehydration, and orthopaedic injuries, among others," said Evelina Krieger, MD, director of pediatric hospital medicine at AHN Wexford. "As flu, cold and RSV season approaches, our team is on-hand to provide families with an expert level of care, closer to home. Whether it's a breathing treatment, fluids or simply close observation, our team is highly-trained in clinical assessment and therapeutics to provide emergency care."
AHN Wexford will also work closely with the AHN Pediatric Orthopaedic Institute and AHN Pediatric Institute for children who may need additional observation or a heightened level of care following elective pediatric surgeries such as orthopaedic, tympanostomies (ear tube), tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies procedures.
A certified child life specialist will assist families and children in navigating their care journey to help ensure the best possible experience at AHN Wexford. A child life specialist is clinically trained in the developmental impact of illness and injury, and helps pediatric patients and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of illness, trauma, disability and loss.
They provide evidence-based, comprehensive interventions that include therapeutic play, preparation for procedures and education to reduce a child's fear and anxiety. They are also responsible for developing thoughtful playroom designs and activities for a diverse patient population.
Kid-friendly accommodations have been made within a medical-surgical unit at the hospital. Austin's Playroom, a play area donated by Mario Lemieux Foundation and designated for other kids in the family, is also located across the hall.
"Children will have their pick of Wii Fit, AppleTV©, virtual reality headsets, arts and crafts, and other toys and activities for their entertainment and to make their stay with us a little less stressful," Dr. Klapper said. "We have also been purposeful in the design of kid-friendly patient rooms, ensuring they are not overstimulating, especially for children who may have a neurodivergent condition."
It's estimated that up to 15 percent of the population is considered "neurodiverse," meaning the brain works differently from the "average" or "neurotypical" person. It is an umbrella term that covers many diagnoses including autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia, among others.
"AHN Wexford saw the need to accommodate these children and will offer a mobile sensory cart, tactile and sensory processing toys, noise-cancelling headphones, and 'flag' indicators outside each room to inform staff of patient-specific sensory disorders," Dr. Klapper said.
In close collaboration with the child life specialist, AHN Wexford will also print social stories and visual guides that help children better understand their hospital experience and communicate with their care team. It was vitally important that the AHN Wexford team design programs and initiatives that take neurodivergent children and their needs into consideration.
"For example, the mobile sensory cart features lights, fiber optics, ceiling and wall projectors that can easily move and transform any space into a relaxing, engaging and empowering multisensory room for hospitalized children" said Joseph Aracri, DO, Chair of AHN Pediatric Institute.
Several local and national organizations have also contributed to the hospital's pediatric expansion. Starlight Children's Foundation donated vital programs to help comfort pediatric patients, including deliveries of toys, books, games, modernized hospital gowns and a gaming system. Northwest Bank, Olive Branch Wexford, Fun Fore All and Dairy Queen Cranberry Township were also among the generous supporters.
"Every investment that we make to improve access to the specialized services our patients and communities need is deeply rooted in the blended Living Health model that we are advancing to transform healthcare," said Jim Benedict, president, AHN. "It's our Living Health promise to build a health and wellness ecosystem that works for everyone, providing high-quality, more accessible and affordable services for all stages of life. Today's announcement is yet another proof point in our ongoing mission to do just that for our smallest, most vulnerable patients and their families."
Pediatrics published an article in 2021 (https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-041723) showing that pediatric inpatient services across the United States decreased by almost 20 percent from 2008 through 2018, placing nearly a quarter of children farther from their nearest emergency room. Reports also state that only one-third of families surveyed had access to a highly "pediatric-ready" emergency department, with the most impacted families living in rural regions.
AHN Wexford officially opened its doors in September 2021 offering a full spectrum of emergency, inpatient and outpatient services to patients throughout the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh into Butler, Beaver and Lawrence counties. To date, the hospital's bustling labor and delivery unit has welcomed more than 2,400 babies into the world and has been recognized for its high level of emergency pediatric readiness.
For more information, please visit ahn.org/Wexford.
About the Allegheny Health Network:
Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org) is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is composed of 14 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, Health + Wellness Pavilions, multiple employed physician organizations, home and community based health services, a research institute, and a group purchasing organization. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, trauma care, cardiovascular disease, organ transplantation, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women's health, diabetes, autoimmune disease and more. AHN employs approximately 22,000 people, has more than 2,600 physicians on its medical staff and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
About Starlight Children's Foundation:
No matter the length, hospital stays can be lonely, stressful, and scary. That's why Starlight exists. Founded in 1982, Starlight Children's Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization that aims to deliver happiness to hospitalized children and their families. Carefully crafted to address the unique needs of pediatric patients, Starlight's vital programs – including Starlight Gaming, Starlight Virtual Reality, Hospital Gowns, and Starlight Toy Deliveries – are donor-funded and offered free of charge to hospitals within its nationwide network to provide comfort, distraction, and a sense of normalcy to kids coping with hospitalization, procedures and treatments. The impact of these programs reaches even further to the families and caregivers, creating a supportive community that nurtures kids when they need it most. To learn more and to help Starlight deliver happiness to hospitalized kids, visit http://www.starlight.org and follow Starlight on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
SOURCE Allegheny Health Network