At least twice in recent years, critically ill pediatric patients in the Albany area have died en route to more specialized care in other areas of Georgia.
In either case, the patient may have lived if health care wasn’t being sought elsewhere, said Dr. Bruce Smith, an Albany pediatrician.
Under a new agreement between Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and MCGHealth Chldren’s Medical Center in Augusta, Albany is now hosting physicians who specialize in the treatment and care of hospitalized pediatric patients.
“Atlanta and Augusta have all 13 pediatric subspecialties. We have three,” Smiths said. “This (agreement) will go a long way toward possibility making diagnoses here in Albany.”
As a first step, the partnership will provide two pediatric hospitalists and two pediatric nurse practitioners at Phoebe. Pediatric hospitalists are physicians who specialize in the treatment and care of hospitalized patients and who are readily available to families of admitted children, thus increasing quality care and patient satisfaction.
“We are very pleased to enter into an agreement with Phoebe Putney that will provide services to critically ill patients and children requiring specialty care in the southern portion of the state,” said Dr. Bernard L. Maria, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and pediatrician-in-chief of the MCGHealth Children’s Medical Center. “We will have Georgia Health Sciences University physicians and advanced pediatric practice nurses on site to provide high level care to children who might otherwise have to seek care elsewhere. When they require the highest level intensive care, we will be ready for them at our children’s hospital in Augusta.”
Eventually, there will be several board-certified physicians and pediatric nurse practitioners who will provide children’s services as the program grows, including conscious sedation, urgent care services, faculty supervision of residents, consultative services for community pediatricians and/or emergency room physicians, a rapid response team for resuscitation, stabilization and transfer to a facility with a higher level of care, on-site and telemedicine sub-specialty care and continuing medical education for community pediatricians and emergency physicians.
“This community has a very capable group of pediatricians that knows children aren’t just small adults,” said Maria said. “We believe this partnership will build on relationships that already exist.
The new partnership will provide Southwest Georgia with inpatient pediatric specialty care and is a “triple partnership” among the two health care organizations and local pediatricians, according to Dr. Doug Patten, Phoebe’s chief medical officer.
“Area and local pediatricians have given outstanding support to this partnership, which will help keep more kids who need to be admitted to the hospital here. It also provides pediatric support for adult subspecialists currently taking care of kids,” said Patten.
Maria and Patten said the program also offers medical students and family practice residents at Phoebe a more robust pediatric training and enhances the undergraduate and graduate medical education programs so that more physician graduates can take better care of children in the region.
Maria, a pediatric neurologist and brain tumor specialist, is among a group of pediatric subspecialists who are holding monthly clinics at Phoebe for local and regional children. The specialists include Dr. Charles Howell, a pediatric surgeon and Chairman of the Department of Surgery at GHSU. There are GHSU clinics in Albany for pediatric renal disease and cancer and blood disorders. Howell and Maria plan to add to the specialty presence at Phoebe and by adding a robust telehealth consultation service with specialists in Augusta so that physicians in the region have 24/7 coverage of their specialty consultation needs.
In other partnerships with GHSU (former Medical College of Georgia, Phoebe is headquarters for the Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus, which provides resident training for third and fourth year medical students.