Doctors push to save pediatric unit

March 26, 2009 4:33:38 PM PDT
There's a fight brewing over the future of Ben Taub Hospital's pediatric unit. The Harris County Hospital District is thinking about shutting it down, but a group of doctors is asking them to reconsider. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

It was an emotional morning for pediatricians and other doctors who work at Ben Taub. They spoke out in front of the hospital board in a bid to keep their unit open, hoping their quick action will make a difference.

In the sterile environment of a county board room, doctors and medical students stood side by side. Their voices were tinged with emotion as they plead their case, that Ben Taub Hospital should be allowed to keep its pediatric unit because patients need it.

"That means our patients have a better chance to grow up as productive citizens and are less likely to need chronic care," said Pediatric Chief Resident Dr. Alison Niebanck.

The tremendous outpouring of support comes just days after it was revealed that the Harris County Hospital District is considering either shutting down or consolidating Ben Taub's pediatric unit because the district says it needs more adult beds.

"This is not an issue of eliminating services," explained David Lopez, CEO of the Harris County Hospital District. "We're trying to figure out how do we provide that service in the right location."

But pediatricians and children's advocates sharply criticize that move, pointing out there are 200,000 uninsured children in the greater Houston area all needing care.

Bob Sanborn with Children at Risk said, "All the evidence and all the data shows this is the wrong decision at the wrong time. We should not close down the pediatric unit at Ben Taub Hospital."

The hospital district board won't make a decision for at least a month. But it was clear the show of force by physicians made an impact.

" I'm very touched by what is going on, because I know people who use that facility," said board member Elvin Franklin.

Some members of the board admitted in the open meeting that they were surprised by the developments in the past weeks. They were wondering if they should have been given more information by the hospital district. A study is underway and a decision is expected within 30 to 40 days.

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