Good to get to the root of kids' poor health

Plannedpatient tower. EwingCole
Plannedpatient tower. EwingCole
Posted: August 03, 2012

St. Christopher's Hospital for Children and its parent company, Tenet Healthcare Corp., are to be commended for making a $110 million investment in improving patient outcomes by addressing the social needs of families in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

The undertaking has the potential to drastically change the medical landscape in North Philadelphia by combating violence, hunger, and poverty — scourges that have set up house in urban communities across the country.

St. Christopher's CEO Carolyn Jackson called the effort "the most important investment that's been made in Philadelphia health care in the last 10 or 15 years." The attention is sorely needed in a community where 40 percent of the children, and 63 percent of all residents, live in poverty.

About $91 million of the money being provided by Dallas-based Tenet will be used to expand St. Christopher's main hospital from 189 to 226 beds and add three new operating rooms. The 135,000-square-foot critical-care tower should open in mid-2015.

By the end of next year, the Center for the Urban Child will open as the gateway for all pediatric primary clinics at St. Christopher's. Currently, more than 350 children a day visit the clinics. With the new center, that number could rise by more than 50 percent.

The goal is to keep children up to date with routine checkups and link them with specialists as needed. But the center will also expand the hospital's current screening for problems such as domestic violence that can contribute to adverse medical conditions in children.

Jackson said the hospital expansion should lead to increased revenues, which, along with prospective grants, would help the program survive. That's good. Addressing the underlying issues that lead to poor health makes sense.

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