Because there are no pediatric specialty hospitals in North Pinellas County, parents have long had to drive to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg for specialized care when their little ones got sick.
Now Morton Plant Mease Health Care hopes to fill the gap by forming a partnership with St. Joseph's Children's Hospital of Tampa.
Through the alliance called St. Joseph's Children's at Morton Plant Mease, parents and children will have better access to the high-tech medical care offered at St. Joseph's.
Both Morton Plant Mease and St. Joseph's are part of the BayCare Health System, so it makes sense to share resources, officials said.
"We decided to capitalize on existing relations,'' said Marcia Albanese, director of Morton Plant's women and children's services.
Physicians at Mease Countryside and Morton Plant hospitals will follow the same protocols as St. Joseph's doctors. Nurses will be given more specialized training to care for patients ranging in age from newborn to 17.
Care for youngsters has been strengthened from the emergency room to the neonatal intensive care units at Mease Countryside and Morton Plant hospitals.
Services at the existing 18-bed inpatient children's unit at Mease Countryside have been enhanced and now include a full-time child life specialist who helps patients with their social and emotional needs.
"This is really a plus for the community,'' Albanese said.
The hospital, with an aquatic theme and a nurse's station shaped to look like a boat, treats children who are suffering from illnesses such as intense flu or infection. Those who have cancer or have been badly hurt in an accident still will be transported to St. Joseph's or another hospital for care.
"We have (pediatricians) covering the patients 24/7,'' Albanese said. "There is never any problem getting a doctor if a child is getting worse.''
Eileen Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153.