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ChristianaCare plans new Pediatric Care Center

Katie Tabeling

The Center for Women’s & Children’s Health is planned to include a 24-Hour Pediatric care center. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTIANACARE

WILMINGTON – ChristianaCare plans on adding a 24-hour Pediatric Care Center, complete with 14 beds for urgent care and short in-patient stays, at its recently opened Center for Women’s & Children’s Health at the Newark campus.

The unit would combine short-stay inpatient and non-scheduled emergent ambulatory care, staffed around the clock by ChristianaCare’s pediatric specialists. It will provide a new option for families when their children need care or observation With an estimated capital cost of $3.6 million, ChristianaCare plans on renovating existing space.

“We know that in the majority of Emergency Department cases, our pediatric patients do not ultimately require emergency care and the full-scale services of a Level-1 Trauma Center. By creating this child-friendly clinical space within the Center for Women’s & Children’s Health, we will increase our ability to provide comprehensive family care and an exceptional experience for those pediatric patients and their families,” ChristianaCare Pediatrics Department Chair Dr. David Paul told Delaware Business Times in an email. “At the same time, this new service will help to alleviate some of volume in our Emergency Department.”

The Delaware Health Resources Board voted Thursday that ChristianaCare’s venture did not meet criteria to go through the Certificate of Public Review (CPR) process. Under the state’s certificate of need law, applications for health care developments are weighed by the board to ensure health care standards and costs to the public. 

Delaware’s law covers health care expenses of more than $5.8 million, construction of a health care facility, or acquisition of a nonprofit health care facility, and change in bed capacity. Specifically, facilities that relocate more than 10 beds or more than 10% of total licensed bed capacity, whichever is less, between facilities in a two-year period have to go through the CPR process.

Delaware Deputy Attorney General Annie Cordo, who served as the board’s counsel, advised that since ChristianaCare would be relocating beds in the same facility, their request would not have to go through the CPR process.

“They say they will be taking beds they already have and moving those beds, not adding new beds. It would be neutral or negative beds,” Cordo said.

In a letter to the board, ChristianaCare officials estimated that less than 10% of children who come to ChristianaCare’s emergency departments for care require the intensity of care available at a level one trauma center. Of the remaining 90% non-trauma visits, some are true emergencies such as breathing difficulties, and some are for emerging concerns, such as sports injuries. 

Many could be handled in a low-acuity setting like a 24-hour pediatric care office, and this center would allow for greater emergency department capacity for all patients and allow children to be assessed in a setting able to meet their needs.

While the board did vote that ChristianaCare’s request did not meet the criteria to trigger the CPR process, board member Cheryl Heiks noted that Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital, which is 15 miles north of ChristianaCare’s Newark Campus, was not factored into the decision-making process.

“I don’t disagree with the concept of what they’re trying to do, I think it’s a very smart move,” Heiks said. “But I just think there’s different pieces in this, like maybe how our regulations are made. This may be a question for the Sunset Committee.”

The Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee is reviewing the state’s certificate of need program for the fourth time.

If ChristianaCare moves forward with the Pediatric Care Center, it will be added on the first floor of  the eight-story building that opened for patients last spring. The $260 million Center for Women’s & Children’s Health was the result of  years of construction and includes a private neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) with private rooms, expanded labor suites and postpartum rooms and more.

Paul said that plans are not yet final, but the hope is ChristianaCare will start construction on the new unit in summer 2021.

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