|For the parent, it’s cause for anxiety. For the child, it’s the fear of the unknown.
“Kids are not just little adults. We have to make sure we are treating them differently,” said Nina Beauchesne, administrator for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood. “They have fears and anxieties that might be different than an adult might think of so we have to communicate with them at their level and also with the family.”
South Florida has families covered with an array of nationally recognized children’s hospitals.
In addition to treating ailments like cancer and diabetes, children’s hospitals provide services in gastroenterology, orthopedics and neonatology and beyond.
Kid-friendly rooms and partnerships with parents and grandparents are how the hospitals take the sting out of medical care for children at their most vulnerable.
Here is a look at three of South Florida’s leading children’s hospitals, plus an emergency room that focuses on kids.
Babies benefit from touch
Holtz Children’s Hospital, housed inside Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, isn’t lacking for national accolades. The hospital, which works with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is recognized as one of the largest training programs for pediatric physicians in the United States.
Dr. Tiffany Field’s pioneering research began here in 1982 on the positive effects of healthy touch on babies, a decade before massage was accepted by the medical community in the care of incubated babies. Her research, which led to the UM’s Touch Research Institute, found that premature infants gained more weight and grew faster than babies who were not touched.
“She revolutionized how babies were taken care of around the world. Today we talk about holding the baby close. That research was done here,” said Daniel Armstrong, interim senior vice president and chief administrative officer. Most recently, fetal surgeon Rubén A. Quintero, from Holtz’s department of obstetrics, earned national attention for his work in treating birth defects such as rare bladder and kidney diseases on babies who are still in utero. His Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, published in 2007, detailed a condition in which two fetuses share blood vessels disproportionately. One baby takes the most nutrients while the other atrophies. Quintero’s fetoscopic procedure corrects the blood flow while the babies remain in the womb.
“He’s developing innovative programs we couldn’t even imagine three years ago for conditions that could be treated in the womb,” Armstrong said.
Among Holtz’s specialties:
• Teaching and research hospital, clinical trials.
• Pediatric and neonatal intensive care unit.
• Pediatric organ and bone marrow transplant program.
• Sickle-cell program.
• Pediatric dialysis program.
• Cochlear implants for hearing loss.
• Pediatric ophthalmology.
“Holtz is the largest public service safety net hospital for kids in the U.S. It means we turn away no one,” says Dr. Stephen Lipshultz, the hospital’s chief of staff.
“When I got here eight years ago, we didn’t have one program listed on the U.S. News & World Report. Now we have nine. We had fewer than 50 doctors on the [magazine’s] Best Doctors’ list. Now there are 156 on the list,” Lipshultz said. “You can’t buy that.”
Holtz is at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, Miami. Beds: 224 in its core component, 400 when including the trauma center. Staff: About 700, including 160 specialists. Phone: 305-585-5437.
Healing through play
Miami-Dade has its own stand-alone children’s hospital (Miami Children’s.) Now Broward County does, too, thanks to the recent opening of the new $140 million Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
A mainstay brand name inside Hollywood’s Memorial Regional since 1992, the new, adjacent 180,000 square-foot, four-story DiMaggio hospital now has a separate oncology unit for serious cancer cases and six pediatric surgery rooms.
The new building came about due to increased need. When DiMaggio opened inside Memorial two decades ago it had 2,000 admissions. Currently, the hospital handles about 8,000 admissions.
Many of the new amenities are particularly kid- and parent-friendly. A play CT scanner is available to young patients who can run tests on their stuffed animals or toys so that they can get an idea of what they can expect from the test.
The hospital has a teen advisory council that helps choose menus and guarantees “room service” food deliveries within 30 minutes so children can eat when they are hungry. Of course, this isn’t a pizza chain making such promises. Foods have to fit the patient’s dietary conditions.
In the pediatric intensive care unit , families make the rounds with doctors, too. “A parent or grandparent knows these patients better than we do,” said hospital administrator Nina Beauchesne. When a parent says that their child appears “a little off today” doctors and staff “can pay attention to those kind of things.”
Among Joe DiMaggio’s specialties:
• Pediatric cardiac surgery.
• Cardiac catheritization.
• Pediatric heart transplant.
• Pediatric imaging services.
If the hospital has a theme, Beauchesne says, that theme would be Power of Play.
“Everything is about play with children. That’s what they do. That’s their work. That’s how they learn and that’s why they heal. Having play rooms is not optional for kids. It helps in their healing process, soul and mind. And it can help their body.”
Joe Dimaggio Children’s Hospital, Hollywood. Beds: 204. Staff: 856. Phone: 954-265-5324.
A hospital with deep roots
Miami Children’s Hospital has a long, storied history in South Florida, dating to 1950 with the opening of Variety Children’s Hospital. In the 1980s, the hospital assumed the name of its Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation. Its mission remains much the same since President Harry Truman sat in the Oval Office.
“Dedicated entirely to the care of children,” said Dr. Narendra Kini, Miami Children’s chief executive officer. “The decision to come to a hospital is never a voluntary one. We understand that.”
The hospital’s entrenched reputation and name in the community is an asset, said its chief medical officer Dr. Deise Granado-Villar who did her training at the hospital. “The hospital has been present in their lives for 61 years. … And that has created a sense of trust and a sense of comfort.”
Miami Children’s is ranked in more categories — 10 — than any other Florida children’s hospital in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2011-2012 report on America’s hospitals. Ranked programs include the hospital’s treatment of cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endriconology, gastroenterology, neonatology, nephrology, pulmonology and urology.
Among Miami Children’s specialties:
• Bone marrow transplant program.
• Congenital heart defects and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.
• Neuroscience through the hospital’s Brain Institute.
• Freestanding pediatric trauma center.
• Blood disorders.
The hospital’s challenge in the future, Kini says, is remaining ahead of the curve financially.
“Almost 67 percent of all our kids are Medicaid. We don’t have a county tax base like Holtz,” Kini said. “We are dependant on our payers. We are, de facto, a public hospital without the advantage of a public hospital. But we are committed to making this an asset.…A neighborhood children’s hospital.”
Miami Children’s Hospital, Schenley Park. Beds: 289. Staff: 220 subspecialists among more than 3,000 employees; Phone: 305 -666-6511.
South Dade resource
Homestead Hospital opened a pediatric emergency room about 12 years ago. It started with only five beds to treat about 3,000 pediatric patients a year from the north Keys, Homestead and the South Dade area.
These days the unit, renamed Speediatrics, treats about 22,000 children, a high volume for the nine-bed unit.
“We’re the Southern-most pediatric emergency room in the state of Florida,” said Dr. Francisco Medina, medical director of Speediatrics. “The closest facility to us is about 22 to 24 miles to the north, so it’s very convenient to have a good pediatric center in this area.”
In 2007 the NASCAR Foundation and the Homestead-Miami Speedway presented Homestead Hospital with $100,000 to redesign the unit in a cheerful motorsports theme. Speediatrics is decorated with checkered flags, race cars and cartoon characters with names like Curves, Six-Speed and Clutch.
According to Medina, Speediatrics treats children with anything from a simple fever to chronic illnesses like asthma, seizures and diabetes. The staff at Speediatrics takes care of the initial emergency condition, and then in more serious cases, refers the patient to Miami Children’s Hospital or another specialist. Speediatrics has a pediatrician on duty 24 hours a day.
“We basically serve as triage for medical conditions that would potentially need more care at other centers,” Medina said. “We also see a lot of walk-ins. They show up because the pediatrician’s office is closed, so they come in after hours.”
Having a separate emergency room for children makes a difference in their care, Medina said.
“For a lot of physicians in emergency medicine, their training in pediatrics is not as intense,” he said. “So it helps them not to worry about what happens on 5-year-olds, or a 1-month-old, who are totally different from an 80-year-old with chest pains.”
Speediatrics at Homestead Hospital, Homestead. Beds: 9 Staff: 30 Phone: 786-243-8000.
Miami Herald writer Laura Edwins contributed to this report.