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Rio Rancho Observer

By Karen Schmidt/Staff Reporter

Lovelace Westside Hospital will soon have a pediatric area in its emergency department.

As part of the emergency department’s “face lift,” four private exam rooms of the emergency department will be dedicated to children and their families.

“It’s part of the evolution of care … that’s become more specialized,” said Dr. Rebecca Webb, who is the medical director of the pediatric program at Lovelace Westside Hospital.

The pediatric emergency department area, which is for children 17 and younger, will complement the inpatient pediatric unit in the hospital that opened last May. Like the inpatient unit, the pediatric ED area will be painted with child-friendly color schemes and murals.

“It helps make patients feel a little more comfortable with the atmosphere,” said hospital CEO Farron Sneed.

The hospital, 10501 Golf Course Road NW, is considering carrying over its penguin-themed murals from the inpatient pediatric unit to the emergency area. The art was painted by then-high school student Andrea Garcia, who is now attending a local community college. (Another area artist may also contribute to murals in the emergency department, Sneed said.)

Parents whose children need to be placed in inpatient care following an ER visit will be able to head upstairs to the inpatient unit. The unit is designed to be children-friendly, with child-sized sinks, toilets and colorful art.

Toys and books donated by the Rio Rancho Rotary Club are used by medical staff to help distract and comfort sick or injured children, said Director of Inpatient Nursing Becky Gallegos. And they get to take their books or toys home with them: in order to minimize the risk of spreading infection, they are one-use-only at the hospital, Gallegos said.

The majority of children seen in the inpatient unit are being treated for respiratory illnesses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common virus with cold-like symptoms.

Reasons for children being seen in the ER run the gamut, from broken bones to appendicitis to the flu, Dr. Webb said.

Gallegos said the flu hasn’t yet hit the pediatrics unit at the hospital.

“It’s sort of migrating this way,” Gallegos said. “We haven’t seen the bulk of it yet.”

Although the emergency department will primarily be undergoing cosmetic changes such as fresh paint and flooring, it will be somewhat closer to having a designated pediatric unit within the hospital — something that none of the three hospitals that serve Rio Rancho (Presbyterian Rust Medical Center; UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center) has.

According to a report released in 2012 by the Centers for Disease Control, a little more than 22 percent of patients seen in ERs are children.

But only around 30 percent of hospitals in the country have separate pediatric units in their emergency departments.

Family physicians and nurses at Lovelace Westside Hospital are trained in pediatric care, Gallegos said.

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