Baptist Prepares to Open Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

By Andy Meek

Baptist Memorial Health Care is opening a 12-bed pediatric intensive care unit next week at the Spence and Becky Wilson Baptist Children’s Hospital, the latest addition to Baptist’s growing suite of pediatric services.

Baptist Children’s Hospital opened its 10-bed emergency department in January and has been caring for a steadily increasing stream of patients that now average 63 a day. Two beds of the new pediatric intensive care unit, or PICU, opened in August.

The PICU specializes in caring for critically ill infants, children and teenagers and is a next-step place to transition patients who need an extra level of advanced care. It also helps alleviate the need to transfer patients somewhere else, which Baptist officials say can be disruptive to children and families.

“This is about family-focused care, which is kind of a hot buzz topic in medicine right now,” said Dr. Mark Heulitt, an expert in pediatric intensive care medicine who oversaw the opening of the two PICU beds in August.

He’s since been deeply involved in all steps of the process of launching the PICU, including staff training, technology acquisition and helping define the approach to care.

“What family-focused care means to me is involvement with the care of the child,” he continued, gesturing as he walks through the new unit. “There will be beds here, this is the patient care area here. The family will have a private bathroom where they can shower, food – the family will be well-taken care of. And the families love it. I involve them in my rounds. I ask them questions, to make sure they understand.”

Demonstrating some of the unit’s technology, he showed how a video intubation system allows him to hold a small device in a child’s mouth – in this case, a doll – that enabled him to see into the body, with the image showing up on a nearby monitor.

“I can go in and easily identify in the child’s throat what I need to do,” he said, focused on the monitor. “See, right there, that’s the chords I need to go through.”

Heulitt has more than 30 years of experience in the field. It’s a career that includes serving as a professor of pediatrics, physiology and biophysics at the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The unit has Heulitt and another doctor now and will eventually add a third.

Erik Carlton, assistant professor and program director of the Master of Health Administration at the University of Memphis, said specialized care facilities such as Baptist’s PICU are a critical component of health care delivery.

“Increasingly,” Carlton said, “the best care can be delivered by focusing providers and services on specific populations with equally specific needs. This greatly assists health care systems in providing the excellent care we seek for them, especially when it comes to our children.”

Kevin Hammeran, administrator and CEO of Baptist Children’s Hospital and Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women, told The Daily News earlier this year during the early buildout of what would become the PICU that the need for emergency pediatric care there quickly surpassed expectations.

The addition of the PICU is one more step in the hospital positioning itself to be able to provide a full spectrum of care, from a busy emergency room to check-up care for older children.


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