Valley Baptist creates special care unit for pediatric emergencies

HARLINGEN — A visit to the hospital emergency room is no picnic for adults, let alone children.

To ease some of their anxiety, and to better treat kids arriving in an emergency situation, Valley Baptist Medical Center is carving out a special pediatrics unit within its emergency department.

“What we currently have is a 38-bed emergency department, and some of those beds have traditionally been designated for children but never truly earmarked for a separate pediatric unit,” said Manny Vela, CEO of Valley Baptist Health Systems.

“What we’re doing is creating a 12-bed unit within the larger 38-bed unit that’s specially designed for pediatric patients and their families.”

Vela declined to say how much the renovation of the emergency department would cost, but said the new pediatric unit would be completed in about four months.

“The whole atmosphere, the motif, will be centered on the child as a patient and eliminating as much fear and anxiety as we possibly can,” Vela said yesterday, adding the new pediatric emergency care section also would help do the same for families accompanying the children as well.

The CEO said the idea of a pediatric emergency room unit dovetails with Valley Baptist’s current treatment specialties when it comes to kids.

“Valley Baptist Harlingen has the only pediatric intensive care unit and the only newborn intensive care unit” in the area, Vela said.

Vela said the hospital is working with pediatricians to gather their input on how best to structure the new unit. He added the hospital’s goal is to ensure each child admitted to the new emergency unit is treated by physicians who specialize in pediatric care.

Pediatric emergency room admissions make up 35 to 45 percent of emergency room admissions per week, he said.

“It’s a big segment of our emergency department,” Vela said.

Even major hospitals like Valley Baptist Harlingen are operating in an increasingly competitive health care environment.

Several new 24-hour emergency care clinics have opened or are being developed for the Harlingen area, and there is always competition from hospitals in Houston and San Antonio.

“One of our goals at Brownsville and Harlingen is to provide service lines so residents of the Valley do not feel the need to go north for treatment,” Vela said. “It’s just one more initiative, in our minds, that is going to help us reach that goal.”