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OU Medicine's The Children's Hospital opens expanded pediatric intensive care facility

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Denise Burns addresses the crowd at the announcement of the newly expanded Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital. Her son, Fletcher (right), has been a patient there on many occasions.

The newly expanded pediatric intensive care unit within The Children’s Hospital at OU Medicine had its grand opening July 19, and became open to patients Monday. 

Located on the sixth floor, the $27.5 million facility will provide 34 additional non-cardiac intensive care unit beds for those up to the age of 18, according to a press release from The Children’s Hospital.

“I’m incredibly excited about this new facility,” Morris Gessouroun, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, said in the press release. “It has been highly anticipated and will dramatically improve our capacity to care for the children of Oklahoma in need of these high-intensity and high-tech services."

The 25 beds available in the pediatric intensive care unit before the expansion will be renovated, modernizing the existing area to become the cardiac intensive care unit and increasing the total intensive care unit beds to 59, according to the press release.

Kendal Pinkston, chief operating officer of The Children’s Hospital, listed examples of patients who may receive treatment in the unit.

“The newborn whose delivery and discharge were routine may become seriously ill, the middle-school student exposed to a respiratory virus or the 18-year old whose accidental injury requires hospitalization — we have all the resources to meet these needs and more,” Pinkston said in the release.

The range of conditions, illnesses and injuries treated at the pediatric intensive care unit make it difficult to cite an average length of stay, according to the release, but some patients are in treatment and recovery for up to four months.

One patient who has been treated in the pediatric intensive care unit is 14-year-old Fletcher Burns. At five weeks old, Burns was diagnosed with epidermal nevus syndrome (EMS), according to a press release. EMS and other medical conditions have required him to receive five major surgeries and dozens of procedures. Burns has made over ten visits to the pediatric intensive care unit.

Andrew Gormley, critical care medicine specialist at The Children's Hospital, said the expansion will enable the hospital to serve more children like Burns.

"Over the past several years, capacity issues in the PICU had limited the number of patients we could care for,” Gormley said in the release. “In some cases, we had to send patients to other hospitals. With the opening of the newly expanded PICU at The Children’s Hospital, we can now keep critically ill children, including cases like Fletcher’s, close to home.”

Jon Hayes, president of The Children's Hospital, said the addition will help the hospital better fulfill its mission.

“Increased capacity means more patients receive the care they need from the most skilled providers with great depth of experience,” Hayes said in the release. “We struggled at times to be able to care for the many patients who needed our services. Now we are able to better fulfill our mission — to take care of every child through our combined efforts.”

As part of the expanded pediatric intensive care unit, according to the release, staff members will be provided with Schwartz Rounds — a platform that helps caregivers process the difficult emotional and social issues they face in caring for patients and family. 

“The critical care environment offers both unique challenges and privileges for caregivers,” Deborah Browning, chief nursing officer at The Children’s Hospital, said in the release. “Schwartz Rounds is a comprehensive system of caregiver support that preserves and protects the human connection in healthcare.” 

The facility will also enable additional support for the family members related to the patient, according to the release. A family advisory council has already previewed the expansion and offered recommendations based on first-hand experience. 

“A great deal of attention has been paid to these spaces to make them not only highly functional, but comfortable and inviting,” Browning said in the release. “Private bathrooms, separate sleeping areas, places to watch TV — these are the kind of amenities that allow and encourage family members to take care of themselves when their lives have been so disrupted.”

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