Photo by Doug Buerlein, courtesy Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital
If only bubbles came in a prescription strength, the doctors and nurses at the new Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital Pediatric Emergency Department would have the power to cure just about anything. "It's sort of like practicing medicine in a preschool environment sometimes," says Dr. William Lennarz, the hospital's chief medical officer for pediatrics, as a nurse applies a soothing cloud of bubbles to the air around 14-month-old Emma Price.
With a mile-wide grin, the little girl reaches to catch the shimmery spheres. Forgotten is the large gauze bandage covering a wound to her right earlobe — a "brother incident," according to her mom, Pamela Berry — that will require sutures. Before September, Emma's care likely would have been administered in an emergency-room bay next to someone much older. "Before we were separated, we shared everything with the adults," says Dr. Frank Petruzella, who works in the pediatric ER at St. Mary's. "You could have an infant being triaged in the same room with an adult with a behavioral issue. It was very stressful."
While this latest effort might suggest a step away from Bon Secours' support for a stand-alone, comprehensive children's hospital, it's part of a broader strategy, says Lennarz. Even with a dedicated children's hospital, some services, like emergency and neonatal intensive care, likely would remain at the region's full-service hospitals, he says. And kids, he adds, simply have very different needs at all levels of emergency care. Though no time frame is set, Lennarz says, Bon Secours may consider similar kid-centric ER facilities at St. Francis in Chesterfield County and at Memorial Regional in Hanover.
The new facility at St. Mary's is part of a $12 million project that also included renovation to the adult emergency department next door and the creation of a similar specialty ER for geriatric patients.