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New kids ER at Munroe

It's set to open on Aug. 20

Ocala, FL - August 9, 2012
Published in Ocala Star Banner on Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 10:35 a.m.

Awaiting medical treatment in a hospital emergency room is frightening for most adults, let alone children.

The sterile walls and floors, imposing medical equipment and strangers seated nearby often leave children confused and frightened long before any medical procedures or examinations even begin.

Munroe Regional Medical Center is about to change that.

The 421-bed hospital will open its new children's emergency department on Aug. 20. The hospital was holding an invitation-only ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.

The children's emergency department has animal murals along the walls, pictures of fish on the floors and artificial trees with twinkling lights in the lobby — all to distract children from the reason they are there. The facility has park benches, making the department look more like an outdoor park and less like part of a hospital.

The examination rooms have TV sets to take kids' minds off the tests and examinations that are to come.

Vickie Sullivan, director of emergency services for Munroe, said the décor isn't just marketing.

“It's the showcase in this facility. It is a much better environment (for children). It's kind of almost magical,” Sullivan said of the $2.1 million project.

“For the moment (for the sick child), whatever they've been told, their attention is toward that magical atmosphere. That fear for that moment will be gone,” she said.

Behind the decor are medical resources sufficient to handle most emergencies:

• nine examination and treatment rooms

• radiology services

• separate waiting room

• pediatric emergency physicians

The new children's emergency room will replace Munroe's Palmer/Klein Children's Express facility, which is across the street from the medical center. That facility is open only from noon to midnight. The new children's emergency room will be open 24 hours a day.

The new emergency department measures 5,677 square feet. Palmer/Klein Children's Express is 4,282 square feet.

During peak hours, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., the emergency room will be staffed with certified pediatric physicians, nurse practitioners, pediatric care nurses, physician assistants, a radiology technician and other support staff.

The children's emergency room is located off the hospital's adult emergency room, making it easier for parents to come to the facility rather than find a new area of the hospital, Sullivan said.

Although the Palmer/Klein Children's Express facility served its purpose, there were shortcomings.

Hospital staffers had to take children from the Express facility to Munroe Regional for tests and medical scans. Blood samples taken at the Express facility had to be taken to Munroe for processing.

More than a dozen departments had to be moved to another section of the hospital or to new locations out of the medical center to make room for the children's emergency room.

The number of children emergency cases warrant the financial and logistical investment in the new department, Sullivan said.

Children younger than 17 make up about a quarter of the 100,000 Munroe ER visits. Munroe ranks as one of the busiest emergency rooms in Florida.

“We don't have the capacity we need,” Sullivan said of the hospital's adult emergency room.

The children's emergency room will also serve to ease some of the congestion from the adult unit.

Also expected to help emergency room congestion problems are 20 new observation beds in the hospital that will allow doctors to monitor emergency room patients as they're being diagnosed, without having to leave them in the emergency room or send them to hospital room beds upstairs.

Sullivan said the new children's emergency room was special to her because she had watched children's emergency services at Munroe from the beginning.

“I've been involved since its birth,” she said.

The Children's Express originally opened in 1986 on the second floor of the hospital. In 2001 it moved to its current Palmer/Klein Express location across the street from Munroe.

It took the Munroe Regional Medical Center Foundation two years to raise enough money from private donors to pay for the children's emergency room.

The organization had originally planned to take three years, said foundation executive director Beth McCall.

“We were very, very pleased with that (it took less time),” she said.

Typically, the hospital administration and board give the foundation a list of capital improvement projects, McCall said, and asks for the foundation to select one it thinks it can help financially.

“Definitely (this project) was on the top of our list,” she said.

McCall said the foundation held numerous public events to raise money and to allow as many people to give donations of varying size and feel they made a contribution.

There were also large donations, McCall said. There were three “signature gifts” of $100,000 or more: $125,000 from Signature Brands, $100,000 from the Jett Travolta Foundation and an anonymous donation of $250,000.

Projects that benefit children are generally supported well, McCall said.

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