Howard hospital children's wing has youthful decor, special appeal Nine-bed care center begins operating Monday

March 28, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

When a Columbia 14-year-old had a severe asthma attack this week, he received emergency treatment at Howard County General Hospital. But, after doctors said he should stay overnight for observation, he had to be sent by ambulance to a hospital outside the county.

Howard County General had no children's unit in which to place him.

Starting Monday, it will.

Yesterday, hospital officials, parents and children celebrated the opening of a new children's wing -- designed in a brightly colored beach theme -- with a 24-hour emergency room, in-patient beds and observation facilities.

The nine-bed Children's Care Center is the first in the state to house all three services in one space, said Victor A. Broccolino, president of the hospital.

For years, sick children in Howard County who needed urgent care -- about 6,000 of them last year -- went to the emergency room and were treated alongside adults. The hospital reserved four in-patient beds for children who needed to be admitted, but they were interspersed among adult beds.

For many children, receiving hospital care with grown-up patients can be traumatic, said Dr. David J. Monroe, medical director of the new unit.

"The noise and the older people in the emergency room can be very frightening," Monroe said. "They hear things going on next to them and they think it will happen to them."

Added Dr. Karen R. Kingry, clinical director of the new unit, "This will decrease the whole stress of the hospital experience for children and for the family in general."

Tense, frightened children are much more difficult to treat than those who are more relaxed, said center staff members.

Ten full- and part-time pediatricians and 25 nurses and patient-care technicians will run the center.

Hospital officials said a $450,000 state grant paid half the cost of the $900,000 center. The rest of the money came from hospital revenues and the nonprofit Howard Hospital Foundation.

Broccolino said that the wing was designed to take into account a growing national trend that has seen low in-patient occupancy rates in pediatric units because of pressure from managed care insurers and advances in such areas as immunizations and home health care.

Most beds at the center will be reserved for emergency care and observation -- services which will help fund four in-patient beds, he said.

Howard County General will still give surgical and orthopedic care for children. But now -- instead of sending patients to another hospital after they are stabilized -- children can recover in the new center, Broccolino said.

Yesterday, about 150 people attended a ribbon-cutting open house at the 4,600-square-foot facility on the northeast side of the hospital's first floor.

It is decorated in burgundy, pink and turquoise in a theme meant to evoke the Maryland shore, complete with striped awnings above patient rooms.

The theme was decided upon after architects -- Zeidler Roberts Partnerships Inc. and W. McNeill Baker, both of Baltimore -- consulted a team of children last summer to get their ideas, said John Walker, hospital spokesman.

Following suggestions of the children, the center includes a 55-gallon, 6-foot-long aquarium and a well-stocked play room with Sega Genesis video games and children's films on video.

"This is so beautiful," said Jane Knighton, a Glenwood teacher who toured the center. "My daughter had her tonsils out eight years ago and all she got was a bed in the adult wing. The feeling here is so different. This absolutely makes me feel better to have this here."

Knighton's daughter, Sarah Knighton-Wisor, 11, a sixth-grader at Glenwood Elementary, and 27 other county elementary and middle school students helped decorate the center with marine-theme art.

The pieces depict various sizes, colors and shapes of marine creatures. They were chosen by hospital administrators from among more than 200 entries submitted by county schools, said Pam Karwan, the hospital's public relations director.

The winning artists, many accompanied by family members and teachers, attended the ceremony, and some posed for pictures with their artwork.

Rose DiFerdinando, 11, a fifth-grader from West Friendship Elementary, submitted a whimsical beach scene watercolor. In it, she and her sister, Frankie, 7, sit on the sand beside a pile of seashells gazing at a still blue ocean.

"We took a trip to Florida this February," Rose DiFerdinando said. "It was so peaceful. That's what the picture is about."

Said Monroe: "This is the type of thing that gives a more personalized, community-type feeling. That's the goal of a community hospital."

Pub Date: 3/28/97

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