As pediatric residents at VCU Medical Center, Drs. Mark Flanzenbaum, Lisa Chestnut and Jeff Bennett were just acquaintances. But they soon began rubbing elbows while working in the pediatric emergency room at St. Mary's Hospital, where all three were employed for nearly 14 years.
By October 2007, the three doctors began throwing around the idea of filling a need they saw in Richmond for an urgent-care center specializing in pediatrics. "We felt like the [children] were getting lost in the system being in an ER, surrounded by adults and situations that weren't that great for them to be around," Chestnut says. Flanzenbaum adds that most of the children who visited the ER could have received outpatient care for their conditions.
On Feb. 9, their vision came to life as they left their jobs at St. Mary's and flung open the doors to KidMed, a 6,000-square-foot urgent-care center for children from birth to age 21, at 4687 Pouncey Tract Road. Parents can grab complimentary coffee while they wait with their children in the well or sick waiting rooms, complete with computers featuring kid-friendly games.
The 10 examining rooms offer a TV and DVD player mounted halfway up the wall, at eye level for children. "I now know how to get to the Disney channel right away," Bennett says with a laugh, flipping one of the flat-screens to Little Bear.
KidMed is open Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight, and Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m. to midnight, for kids who need medical attention after their primary-care doctor's office is closed and whose cases are not serious enough for an ER visit.
"If an ambulance is called to a house where a child is horribly sick, they are going to take them to an ER; they are not going to bring them here," Flanzenbaum says. "But if a mom brings in a child like that, we'll take care of them here, we'll stabilize them and we'll get them to the hospital. We can do it, but we're not trying to take the place [of the ER]."
KidMed has about 25 registered nurses on staff, the ability to fill prescriptions, an X-ray machine and lab capabilities. This enables staff to do blood work and receive rapid test results in-house. If a case is more serious or if a more extensive test is needed, KidMed has relationships with several local hospitals.
These hospitals have also arranged to work with the KidMed staff during emergencies, allowing their patients to bypass their ERs and be transferred directly to treatment rooms. In some cases, Chestnut adds, local pediatricians and hospitals are also sending their patients to KidMed.
Marla Gallaher's 3-year-old son had a high fever and a significant cough, but his pediatrician's office had closed for the day. "My inclination was to take him to the ER," says Gallaher, a mom of four, adding that they live near St. Mary's. But she had been referred to KidMed and decided to give it a try.
Flanzenbaum treated her son, ordering a strep test, which was negative, and gave him one dose of antibiotics. The next day, Gallaher received a follow-up call from Flanzenbaum, and all the records were sent to her son's primary-care pediatrician.
"It still took less time, even with the drive out there, than my last ER visit about a week and a half before," Gallaher says, calling it "a great experience."
KidMed currently sees about 15 to 30 children each evening, with a maximum capacity of about 50. Flanzenbaum adds that KidMed has the vision to spread their influence.
"We are already getting excited about opening one in the South Side," Bennett says, adding that the goal is by next summer.
For more information, call 422-5437 or visit kidmedva.com.