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Akron Children’s Hospital invests in expanding services in the Valley

Akron Children’s Hospital invests in expanding services in the Valley

BOARDMAN — Akron Children’s Hospital is among the top pediatric medical centers in the world — a distinction that’s significant to the Mahoning Valley and a tremendous asset in the region.

“It’s a huge asset for the community because that care is local. It’s right here in our backyard to take care of our kids, our neighbors’ kids and the kids in our schools,” said Paul Olivier, vice president, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

The system, which has an enormous presence in the Mahoning Valley, was No. 16 among 150 specialty hospitals, according to Newsweek’s World’s Best Specialized Hospitals 2022 rankings.

Said Grace Wakulchik, CEO emeritus when the hospital announced the honor in October, “this ranking is another testament to the compassion, expertise and quality of care our health care teams provide to patients and their families every day.”

Akron Children’s Hospital brings a distinctive competence to the Valley, picking up from the legacy of Tod Children’s Hospital — that of a singular focus on the health care needs of children and adolescents, Olivier said.

“The skill level of the staff and the culture of our organization to support children and their caregivers, whether their families or parents or foster parents or grandparents, we come together around the kids for that and that is what makes us special,” Olivier said.

The system has invested millions in recent years to improve and address the growing needs of pediatric health care in the Mahoning Valley — from $2.3 million to expand its youth behavioral health program to $2.9 million to enlarge and renovate an office in Austintown to nearly $300,000 to add a new sports gym complex at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatric Rehabilitative Services, Warren, on East Market Street.

The big investment now is $31 million at the Beeghly campus on Market Street, Boardman, for a new emergency department.

At 34,7000 square feet, the new department is more than three times the size of the existing department. When complete, it will increase the number of treatment rooms from 17 to 23.

In addition, the number of behavioral health treatment rooms will increase by two to three, and the number of triage rooms will grow from one to two. The building also will have two dedicated resuscitation rooms, one more than it has now.

Also at Beeghly, a little more than $1 million will be spent this year to add three pieces of equipment to the imaging department: an EOS system that uses low-level radiation to capture images of the spine, a new fluoroscopy machine and a second ultrasound room for ultrasound imaging.

“We have the technology at the Akron campus and now we are adding it here,” Olivier said of the EOS machine. “So for our spine surgeons, it will give them an extra level of diagnosis capabilities when that gets added.”

All three projects should be complete by June, Olivier said. Private donations are paying for a good bit of the investment.

Meanwhile in March, Akron Children’s was awarded $3.9 million from the Ohio Department of Health to expand its School-Based Heath Centers, a program that started in 2019 to provide health care to children who may not otherwise have access.

Locally, the expansion will happen in districts already participating in the program: Sebring Local Schools, East Palestine City School District and Warren City Schools. The program at Windham Exempted Village School District in Portage County also will be expanded.

“These funds will allow us to expand beyond the one nurse practitioner team we have in place, buy telehealth equipment for schools and, essentially, help achieve our expansion plans in one year instead of five years,” said Michele Wilmoth, director of school health services.

The telehealth equipment will allow the nurse practitioner to hear heart and lung sounds and see in a child’s ear, nose and throat for a full exam even if not present in the building where the child is ill.

According to the hospital, an Akron Children’s nurse practitioner, working with school nurses and other team members, is able to:

・ Diagnose a child with a minor illness in person or by telehealth, with parent permission, and arrange for a prescription to be ordered without the child having to leave school or a parent having to leave work;

・ Connect a family to a pediatric medical home and other community resources;

・ Help manage students with chronic illnesses, like diabetes and asthma;

・ Help diagnose a behavioral health concern and refer the family to a specialist;

・ Offer vision and hearing screenings; and

・ Provide a well-child exam and immunizations in a private location within the school office for a child behind on preventative care due to the pandemic, a residential move or other reasons.

“These clinics remove many of the barriers that prevent families from getting health care for their children, such as a lack of transportation and inability to take time off from work,” said Wilmoth. “In addition, they keep children in school whenever possible and that continuity is a key factor in their academic success.”

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