Each year, around 5,000 children are admitted to the Texas Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Units. These are the patients who require the highest level of medical care. Until just a few months ago, a portion of our admissions were children who were transferred from West Campus because of their need for a higher level of care which was not yet available in the community hospital.
In March, partially funded by a generous $1million donation from the Lauren and Lara Camillo Family Trusts, West Campus opened an eight-bed PICU to meet the evolving needs of patients in the community. The family, who’s known in West Houston for their thriving business in homebuilding, Legend Homes, made the donation to create the much-needed intensive care unit which will help care for the growing number of cases being seen at West Campus. This was the second $1million donation from the family, who also donated to the construction of West Campus, said they are giving back to the community that has helped them thrive. Only a few months after opening, Chief of Critical Care Dr. Lara Shekerdemian said it is meeting a great need that has been present for a long time. Already, there has been a steady increase of patients using the West Campus PICU with an average daily census of anywhere between five and seven and an 80 percent occupancy just a few months into opening.
“We’re delivering the right care in the right location for all of our patients who require critical care,” said Shekerdemian.
The unit is staffed by intensive care physicians and advanced practice providers who are all on Faculty at Baylor College of Medicine, Section of Critical Care. All of our caregivers, including our nurses, have experience and training at main campus PICU. Some of the West Campus PICU nurses transitioned from Main Campus and others were recruited from other intensive care units. The new positions were met with enthusiasm and there was no lack of interested individuals who were excited about working in this new setting. Shekerdemian stresses the care at West Campus is equivalent to the main campus intensive care with the same guidelines and protocols, and a highly trained team of providers. The addition of the unit will impact the ability of the West Campus facility to perform more complex surgical procedures, and to admit more patients from the Emergency Center. The unit is not only helping the great need in West Houston, it ensures that we have more space to care for the sickest children across the City.
“We have had to turn down patients at Main Campus needing our critical care services as recently as last winter before the opening of the West Campus PICU,” said Shekerdemian. “This is something that we are very uncomfortable with; we feel a moral discomfort at having to deny admission to any child that’s critically ill.”
Dr. Moushumi Sur, medical director of the West Campus PICU, said this is a situation we hope to ease this winter, with a proposed plan to increase staffing and beds.
“The number of transfers from the Emergency Center at West Campus and from other hospitals in the area to the Main Campus ICU has decreased since we opened the new PICU,” said Sur. “We’ve made an impact in terms of taking care of patients at the same level in a community setting. This is exactly what we hoped.”
Dr. Shekerdemian said while the transfers have decreased, the Main Campus PICU has not seen a major decrease in patient volumes. In fact, she said a proportion of the patients in need of intensive care at West Campus are new to the Texas Children’s Hospital system. As for the build out of the unit at West, Dr. Sur said it’s a breath of fresh air.
“There is more natural light in the unit which helps overall morale not only for our staff but for the patients and their families,” said Sur. “The visibility is also improved and enhanced. The ability for the nurses to have their eyes on their patients even when they’re outside the room is extremely important.”
With an already busy West Campus PICU, the critical care team is planning for the future. Sur is on a committee for The Woodlands Campus to plan an intensive care unit, making sure the facility is built to support the opening of a PICU within the first few months of the campus’ opening.