First year of hospital hailed as healthy

By William K. Alcorn

‘We came into this community with the goal of building on the good work that Tod Children’s Hospital did,’ Akron Children’s CEO said.

BOARDMAN — William Considine almost purrs when he talks about the first year of operations at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley Beeghly Campus.

The Beeghly Campus has that residential look, said Considine, president and chief executive officer at Akron Children’s for 30 years.

“Through the eyes of a child, it is very welcoming. I don’t know who designed it, but it is almost made to be a place that families bring their children to be taken care of,” he said.

Community leaders also praised Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley on its first anniversary.

Akron Children’s filled the void in pediatric care created when the Forum Health Board of Trustees closed Tod Children’s, and it occupies the physical space that previously housed Forum’s Women and Infants Pavilion in Beeghly Medical Park on Market Street.

Humility of Mary Health Partners and Akron Children’s shared equally in the $26 million paid to Forum for the facility.

Additionally, Akron Children’s spent $11 million on construction to convert the former Women and Infants Pavilion into a pediatric hospital and $7 million on equipment and furnishings.

The hospital, which opened Dec. 8, 2008, celebrates its first anniversary Tuesday.

“We don’t think year one could have been any better given the economy. It’s a wonderful reason for celebration and reason to give the Mahoning Valley a big hug,” Considine said.

“The expectations that we had when we opened Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley have in every way been surpassed, both from the perspective of community acceptance and the standpoint of patient volume,” Considine said.

He said the Beeghly family made a substantial gift to Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley, and that Bruce R. Beeghly is a member of the hospital’s community advisory council, as are local residents Paul and Sallie Tod Dutton.

The Beeghly Campus is located on the former Beeghly Homestead, and Tod Children’s Hospital took its name from the Tod family.

“In the short space of one year, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley has established itself as an invaluable community resource. We are fortunate indeed to have this fine facility here providing numerous specialized medical services for children,” Beeghly wrote.

Mrs. Dutton said the transition from Tod to Akron Children’s has been smooth.

“I am really impressed with the quality of care and the comprehensive nature of medical procedures now offered to children in the area. To have helicopter transportation to and from the Akron facility is a big help,” she said.

Mrs. Dutton said she is particularly pleased that Akron Children’s has maintained Tod’s Child Life and Education Program, which provides outpatient support for patients with asthma and diabetes and other conditions.

“It is one thing I really wanted to see continued,” she said.

From a patient volume standpoint, admissions continue to increase. Akron Children’s projected 15,000 admissions this year, and it looks like the number will be close to 20,000, Considine said.

And, he said, development and expansion will continue at Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley.

“We just opened a special-care nursery at Beeghley, in additional to what we have at St. Elizabeth Health Center, and going into 2010, out capital budget includes $4 million for new equipment for and modernization of operating rooms at the Beeghly Campus,” Considine said.

Considine added that the hospital is talking about extending its primary-care network into northwestern Pennsylvania, Columbiana County and northern Trumbull County.

Akron Children’s already has a specialty cardiology office in Sharon and would like to be a Pennsylvania Medicaid provider.

“We would like to eliminate any barriers that might exist,” he said.

Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley Beeghly Campus has 377 employees, and a total of about 420 at the five Akron Children’s locations in the Valley.

“When I look back at it, not only last year, but the last four years of HMHP’s affiliation with Akron Children’s, I believe pediatric care in the Valley has improved because Akron Children’s brought a broader scope of services and physicians here than the Valley had before,” said Robert Shroder, president and chief executive officer of HMHP.

St. Elizabeth Health Center still has inpatient pediatric patient beds and a pediatric nursery, and houses a neonatal (pediatric intensive care) unit that is operated by Akron Children’s staff.

There is other evidence besides the Community Advisory Council that Akron Children’s is being accepted in the area.

The Kid’s Crew of Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley, a committee of community volunteers, was created to provide assistance with hospital-sponsored special events and other fundraising activities.

Also, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley’s inaugural “Miracles and Promises” radiothon in September raised some $95,200, said JoAnn Stock, director of development for the local hospital.

Considine said he is aware of what’s going on with the Forum Health bankruptcy, but said Akron Children’s wants to be part of the solution for the community.

“We’re committed to being the Mahoning Valley’s premier pediatric health-care provider, and we are continuing to nurture that in pretty tough economic times. We’re in this for the long haul,” he added.

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