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Children’s Hospital Shares Inside Look at Capacity Woes; 79 Children Diverted this Year

October 21, 2009

Children's CEO urges swift action by City Council on hospital expansion

Seattle Children's Hospital announced that it has diverted 79 children to other medical facilities in the last year.

"We are running out of beds," said Susan Heath, Chief Nursing Officer at Children's. "This is a matter of critical importance to the families and children of our entire region."

Children's has been engaged in a two-and-a-half year process to expand the hospital from 250 beds (50 in double rooms) to 600 beds by 2030.

"Our beds are not interchangeable. For example, 20 of our beds are used for children with psychiatric problems and can not be used for other children. Similarly we can not use a medical unit bed for an intensive care patient," said Heath. "If we are not allowed to build our first phase of rooms by 2012 more than 80 children needing specialty pediatric care will be turned away on a regular basis and will likely have to seek care outside our region."

Serving the largest geographic region of any other children's hospital in the country, Children's currently operates at an average daily census of 85 percent, with some days exceeding 100 percent.

"When that happens seriously ill children are at high risk of being turned away, and surgeries can be cancelled," said Heath. "The state Department of Health considers occupancy levels higher than 70 percent to be problematic. Occupancy levels of 85 percent or higher mean that some of our units are already at 100 percent capacity."

Growth Process Nearing End; Requires City Council Action This Year

Children's Major Institution Master Plan (MIMP) process included nearly 30 community meetings, eight major plan revisions, and the commitment to implement an extraordinary package of mitigation measures to lessen impacts on surrounding communities.

In an effort to free up space at its main campus, Children's moved its research facilities to downtown Seattle and is moving much of its outpatient services and administrative offices off campus.

In February 2009, both the Citizen's Advisory Committee and the Department of Planning and Development recommended approval of Children’s Master Plan.

Then on August 11, the Hearing Examiner recommended that the Seattle City Council deny Children's MIMP application. In response, on August 25 Children's filed a formal appeal of the Hearing Examiner's recommendation.

Appeals will be addressed by the City Council, who has the final decision on whether to allow Children's to expand.

"We have an urgent need to address our capacity issues and hope that the City Council will act swiftly this year on our Master Plan," said Dr. Tom Hansen, CEO at Children's. "I understand that the Council has a heavy burden with the budget and other year-end legislative priorities but hope they will make Children’s a top priority. Yesterday, I sent a letter to Council President Conlin requesting an expeditious review of our Master Plan."

Seeing Is Believing: The Need for Growth at Seattle Children's

The following video tour was prepared by Children's for the City's Examiner hearing to illustrate the challenges of its current facilities and the strain often felt by patients, families and staff due to increasingly high patient volumes. The video contains subject matter that may be uncomfortable for some viewers. Click here to watch the video.

While staying true to Children's founding mission of providing care regardless of a family's ability to pay, the hospital has seen un- and under-compensated care costs more than double in two years from $41.7 million in FY 2006 to $86.2 million in FY 2008. The hospital projects it will spend more than $100 million on un- and under-compensated care in FY 2009.

For more information, please visit http://masterplan.seattlechildrens.org/.

Video: http://www.seattlechildrens.org/videos/an-inside-look-at-seattle-childrens-hospital

About Seattle Children's Hospital

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Children’s has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.seattlechildrens.org.

Media Contact

Jennifer Seymour
206-987-5207
Louise Maxwell
206-987-5210

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