ALTON — A partnership between Alton Memorial Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital is offering a new level of treatment for injured and sick children. Soon, the addition of a helicopter landing pad at Alton will give the program even more of a lift.
AMH is serving as home base for a St. Louis Children’s critical care transport team, made up of a pediatric-certified paramedic and two registered pediatric nurses, who are ready round the clock to transport the most critical children and infants to specialized care at Children’s Hospital.
At their disposal is a specially-equipped mobile intensive care unit (called a MICU, for short), which is stationed at the Alton hospital, and a KidsFlight helicopter, which is stationed at St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia.
Alton Memorial officials soon plan to add a second helicopter pad at Alton, which will allow the KidsFlight to be permanently moored there, saving critical flight time. There are no similar children’s care helicopters serving the Southern Illinois region.
Currently Alton only has one helicopter pad, and it’s shared by the pilots who fly to and from various hospitals for all types of patients, adults and children.
Jason Hesman, the overall coordinator of the program and EMS manager at Children’s, said the Alton team began July 1, with three rotating shifts of nurses and paramedics during a 24-hour period.
Hesman describes the MICU as “an ambulance on steroids. It’s a little bit bigger than the average street ambulance. We do have room, and everybody wants to bring everything but the kitchen sink when their little one is sick. We do have the capability of taking on space for that stuff, plus we have two full-size stretchers. A lot of times when we get to a referring hospital they will actually have two patients that we can triage and bring back at the same time.”
AMH is the third permanent location for St. Louis Children’s critical care transport team. Additional teams are housed at its main campus in St. Louis and at Parkland Health Center in Farmington, Mo.
“When a child has a life-threatening condition or injury, timing is a critical factor in their recovery — and often their survival,” says Joan Magruder, president of St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “The placement of a Children’s transport team with our partners in Alton gives children in Southern Illinois a faster, more direct route to highly specialized and life-saving treatment.”
The team based in Alton is housed in sleeping quarters that were converted from empty space in the hospital’s Smith Wing.
“Having the St. Louis Children’s transport team housed at Alton Memorial Hospital is a tremendous advantage for young patients in our area and will give peace of mind to parents,” says Dave Braasch, president of AMH. “We are excited about this partnership.”
Hesman said the critical transport team is available to the hospital’s emergency and OB departments when not on a transport call.
“Alton has opened its doors for us, a very warm welcome,” Hesman said. “We’re there for support for the community, but we’re there for support of the hospital, too. If the hospital has a patient who is having a difficulty, we’re there to help.”
Hesman said it’s a natural extension of services between hospital that are each in the BJC HealthCare network.
He recalled one incident early in the process, when a team was walking the hospital on a tour. A physician who needed a child transferred pulled them aside.
“He said, ‘I need your help,’ and we were immediately there. From the time our team touched that patient to the time he was in the MICU on the way to the hospital was less than five minutes,” Hesman recalled.
Air service is an even speedier alternative. The helicopters are BK117s.
“I currently have to two BKs,” Hesman said. “One is in St. Louis and shared between St. Louis and Alton. That’s KidsFlight 2. KidsFlight 1 is down in Farmington, Mo. We also have KidsFlight 3, which is a fixed wing airplane, also based at Cahokia.”
The entire St. Louis Children’s critical care transport team conducts approximately 2,600 transports annually. Most transports involve newborn or critically ill babies who require specialized care in the St. Louis Children’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit, or children who have suffered injury or trauma requiring care at the region’s only level one pediatric trauma center verified by the American College of Surgeons.
Success in overcoming a traumatic injury is often determined within the first hour after the injury. Quick arrival to a level one trauma center can set the course for that child’s recovery, or even survival. By stationing one team at Alton Memorial Hospital, the overall Children’s transport team is positioned to respond to any call within 10 minutes.
Hesman said the new service brings definitive care to critically ill children and newborns in the Alton area, as well as education and outreach opportunities.