Health of hospitals: St. Vincent, Community adding projects, services

Community Hospital Anderson.

ANDERSON — Community Hospital Anderson's announcement of a plan to transition its pediatric unit has prompted a flood of reactions and questions from community members.

Starting July 1, the hospital’s pediatric unit will become additional beds for its adult medical surgical unit. This is in response to the observed decline of pediatric inpatients and a current average of 0.4 patients being cared for per day, according to a statement released by Beth Tharp, president and CEO of Community Hospital Anderson.

This decline of pediatric inpatients is something Mike Schroyer, regional president of the St. Vincent Northeast Region, said hospitals are experiencing nationwide.

“Pediatric admissions have gone way down because they’re mostly taking outpatient now, but (St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital) has a process in place," Schroyer said. "If (use) is really low we will utilize a smaller unit. Or, if we don’t have any patients at all, we will utilize the staff in the birthing center or we will have them on call.”

Anderson resident Brittany Stewart, who has taken advantage of the care Community Hospital provides many times, said her first thought when she heard the news was about the services that might be impacted by the change.

As a single mother of two children, she was particularly worried about the Under the Weather program.

Before the transition, Community Hospital Anderson provided a daycare for sick children which cost $3 per hour. The program began as a service for hospital employees, but it was eventually opened to community members. Last year, about 40 children were cared for as part of Under the Weather, Tharp said in an email.

This allowed parents like Stewart to maintain their peace of mind when their child was sick but they still had to go to work.

“When I was in nursing school or when I was working minimum wage jobs, you don’t always have the luxury of taking a day off if your kids are sick, and so it was inexpensive child care and it was a quality program,” Stewart said. “It was wonderful. I was comfortable leaving my kids in (the hospital’s) care.”

With the hospital’s changes, however, Tharp said the program will no longer be provided.

Stewart said the loss of this program has left her unsure about what she will do the next time one of her children gets sick. In her experience as a traveling nurse, she has yet to find a program as “robust” as what was offered at Community Hospital Anderson.

With an 11-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter, Stewart said she has been unable to come up with a satisfactory substitute for the Under the Weather program.

“My son is technically old enough now to stay home by himself if he is sick, but that’s not always something I am comfortable with, especially when I am working 12- and 14-hour days,” Stewart said.

She added that she feels bad for other mothers who are in low-income situations and cannot afford to take time off work without risking losing their job or not having enough money to pay their bills.

“My coworkers and my peers speak so highly of Community Hospital because of the services they offer and I think Community Hospital could be a leader in continuing to offer Under the Weather care,” Stewart said. “And, (the hospital would) show that they do support the low-income and single mothers of the community by continuing this service somehow.”

Schroyer, however, said St. Vincent’s pediatric unit offers its Sniffles & Snuggles program, which provides the same services Community Hospital’s Under the Weather program did, at $4 an hour for its associates and is looking at opening it to the community in the future.

“We also have our St. John’s Children’s clinic that has been here for quite some time offering care for children, even those who can’t pay, we care for them through there,” Schroyer said. “Then, at the hospital, we have a pediatric unit.”

Community will also still be offering services to pediatric patients, Tharp said, but without a “separate, dedicated unit for pediatric patients.”

Each nurse at the hospital is also trained in Pediatric Advanced Life Support, or PALS, Tharp said, and many of the nurses are trained in Emergency Nurse Pediatric Car, or ENPC.

The hospital will also retain a pediatric hospitalist and a pediatrician who will be on call 24 hours a day, according to the statement Tharp released.

Community’s obstetrician services — which include care during and after pregnancy — however, will not be impacted by the change.

She also confirmed that the program accommodating parents whose newborns must stay in the hospital longer than the mother will also remain available, and Community’s case management team will continue to provide aid to patients and their families in locating the resources they need.

Follow Brooke Kemp on Twitter @brookemkemp or contact her at 765-640-4861 or brooke.kemp@heraldbulletin.com.