It is tough enough for parents when their child falls desperately ill and must be hospitalized. For parents in North Pinellas County, the ordeal has always been worsened by having to commute miles to get to a children's hospital. Collaboration among hospitals is about to lighten that burden.
The Tampa Bay region is fortunate to have two specialty hospitals for children: All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg and 174-bed St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. Those facilities are specially equipped to take care of the medical, emotional and family needs of very sick children.
North Pinellas doesn't have a specialty hospital for children, so in the past if children required the sophisticated specialty care of a pediatric hospital, they had to go to Tampa or St. Petersburg. And their parents faced a drive of up to an hour one way to visit them.
In the future, however, two North Pinellas hospitals may be an option that is closer to home.
Morton Plant Mease Health Care has partnered with St. Joseph's Children's to bring that hospital's state-of-the-art care to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater and Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor.
Doctors at the North Pinellas hospitals will follow the same medical protocols as St. Joseph's physicians. Nurses and other staff members will get more intensive training in caring for infants and children. A full-time child life specialist has been added at Mease Countryside's 15-bed pediatric unit to work with young patients and their families.
Both of these North Pinellas hospitals have long provided care for children, but the collaboration with St. Joseph's will improve and expand their services and level of care. The facilities will be closer to home not only for North Pinellas families, but also for residents of southwest Pasco County, who face even longer drives than North Pinellas residents to get to a pediatric hospital.
Both hospitals also plan to start offering new programs and classes on children's health and wellness issues that are bound to benefit the community.
For extreme cases, such as children with cancer or traumatic injuries, St. Joseph's and All Children's are still just a helicopter or ambulance ride away.
This kind of collaboration is one of the benefits of having the BayCare Health System, a network of 10 hospitals in the region. In today's medical environment, hospitals are often in competition with each other. It is encouraging to see them also collaborate in ways that make difficult times better for patients and those who love them.