You might say that Children’s Mercy South is treating kids better these days.
Following years of fundraising, the Tom Watson Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South—formerly the Urgent Care Center at Children’s Mercy South—opened on Oct. 24. The state-of-the-art facility provides Johnson County parents and others throughout the region the opportunity to take their sick kiddos to the only full-time pediatric emergency service provider in the state of Kansas and the only pediatric emergency service provider in the southern half of metropolitan Kansas City.
That’s a big comfort to Kim and Mitch Morse of Leawood. The couple has accumulated what Kim good-naturedly refers to as “frequent flier miles” at one of the nation’s top pediatric hospitals, Children’s Mercy Hospital, including the south and downtown locations. Their 14-year-old son, Jack, has been bundled into a car more times than Kim cares to admit for daunting trips to the Urgent Care Center at Children’s Mercy South in Overland Park or the Emergency Department on the main campus of Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“It started when Jack was nine months old,” says Kim. “We made countless trips to Children’s Mercy Hospital downtown, which is a long, nail-biting trek when you have a child in an emergency situation. It was nothing short of phenomenal when the Urgent Care Center opened a mere five minutes from our house in 2004.”
Jack, who is autistic and has gastrointestinal issues, muscle and bone disorders and other health challenges, has been a regular visitor to the Urgent Care Center in Overland Park. Kim says when the family hits the door with Jack in tow, the admissions staff, nurses and physicians respond with lightening speed in assessing the medical situation, determining whether he needs to be transported by ambulance to the Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy Hospital or if it’s something that can be handled at the Urgent Care Center.
With the opening of the Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South, families like the Morses will have pediatric physicians, nurses, radiologists, lab technicians and other pediatric allied health and support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And of course, the trademark care that the hospital is known for—helping patients and families through a difficult time with compassion and respect is part of any experience at Children’s Mercy.
Since 1993, Children’s Mercy South has worked together with community physicians to provide after-hours or urgent care services. Since a major expansion in 2004, Children’s Mercy South clinics and urgent care volume has remained near full capacity.
Marshaun Butler, MHSA, administrator of Children’s Mercy South, has been in charge of operations at the south campus since 2007. She says the Urgent Care Center visit volume has increased nearly 68 percent since 2004.
“In fiscal year 2005 we handled nearly 33,000 patient visits,” says Butler, who has been an employee of Children’s Mercy Hospital for eight years. “The center handled more than 55,000 visits in fiscal year 2010.”
Those numbers speak to the region’s population growth, which amplifies the need for pediatric-specific emergency care in Johnson County and beyond. Butler says the Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South serves 18 counties, extending into rural western Kansas, accounting for more than 600,000 people.
Before the opening of the Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South on Oct. 24, 65 to 70 percent of the patients treated at the Urgent Care Center were the type of cases typically seen in an emergency room.
Milton A. Fowler, Jr., MD, FAAP, FACEP, section chief of the Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South, says the increased services for patients like Jack Morse—and for anxious parents like Kim and Mitch—mean streamlined care.
“Patients will have access to specialists like orthopedic physicians, ENTs and surgeons and the best pediatric care in the area,” says Fowler, who has been with Children’s Mercy Hospital for 17 years. “Though not everything can be taken care of at the Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South, such as trauma and other scenarios that will require the support of the main campus, we’ll be able to stabilize patients and transfer them by ambulance downtown if necessary.”
Fowler is as ecstatic as a kid at the circus that the Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South is a reality. “It’s been 12 years since I was instructed to build this to support the community and its providers like family pediatric physicians and practitioners,” he says. “Our Urgent Care Center was urgent care on steroids—we were evolving to an emergency department, and it was stepped up a notch because of people like Tom Watson and other supporters in the community.”
Lester E. Richardson, DO, FACEP, is the Johnson County EMS System medical director and is pleased with the opening of the Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South. “This is a major milestone in Johnson County and what the community has wanted for more than a decade,” says Richardson. “We are delighted that Children’s Mercy South is able to accept ambulances, and the proven quality of the hospital is now on our doorstep.”
Kim Morse can’t predict the next time she and Mitch will need to take Jack to Children’s Mercy South and under what circumstances. She’s just grateful that an acclaimed children’s hospital emergency department is in their backyard.
“There are other emergency departments in town,” she says. “But knowing that Children’s Mercy South has a pediatric-focused emergency department is tremendous peace of mind, especially when my child is in distress.”
Milton A. Fowler, Jr., MD, FAAP, FACEP, section chief of the Tom Watson Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South, offers an analogy about the newly opened service that any parent can appreciate.
“The Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South is like a safety net,” says Fowler. “We want parents to come to us, and we’ll get them to the right service. There are no stop signs here—we open our doors to anything and everything.”
The Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South is staffed with 30 pediatric medical providers, 17 pediatric associates trained in emergency medicine, a nurse practitioner and more than 120 pediatric-trained nurses.
For more information, visit www.childrensmercy.org.
How Do You Spell Relief
Here are some quick facts about the pediatric eyes and expertise of the new Tom Watson Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South:
• Children’s Mercy South offers access to select pediatric surgical specialties and is open to ambulance traffic.
• Children’s Mercy South does not offer a separate urgent care center; however, the hospital continues to have capacity to see non-urgent patients as needed. Children’s Mercy plans to open an Urgent Care Center nearby in 2012.
• According to Fowler, there are medical situations that will be addressed at Children’s Mercy Hospital downtown, once the patient is stabilized and transferred by ambulance.
Typical medical situations that are addressed at the Emergency Department at Children’s Mercy South include:
Evaluations of abdominal pains
Foreign body removals
Routine medical conditions