Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday August 21st 2019


A New Day for Children’s Healthcare

By Rick Outzen

On May 3, Sacred Heart broke ground on its regional children’s hospital and announced the facility will be named for the Studer family.

David Sansing, chair of the board of directors for Sacred Heart Hospital Pensacola, emceed the event and gave a history of the children’s hospital that began in a women’s dormitory of the Sacred Heart Hospital campus.

“Once again the phenomenal leadership here at Sacred Heart has responded to a growing community need for increased access to specialized care for women and children,” he said. “The pediatric services provided at this hospital are vitally important to the health of the entire community.”

Sansing pointed out three features of the new hospital:

“First, this new children’s hospital will add more beds. With beds, regional beds, we will be able to provide care for even more children, and even more specialized care than we already do. These new beds will also create more jobs for our community.

“Second, the inpatient services will be consolidated into one space which will only down-play the anxiety the parents have and the children have when they come to the hospital, but also make staff more efficient, our coordination services better and our senior staff better, which is even more important.

“Lastly and most importantly, we will design first and foremost for children; everything from the limited facilities to the event calendar will be designed for children. The children will not be sharing space with the adults, and this will be a hospital just for them.”

Dr. Robert Patterson, medical director of The Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart, talked about the hospital’s leadership and how many healthcare systems shy away from children services.

“To build a children’s hospital really requires sacrifice,” said Dr. Patterson. “There are many more lucrative and flashy things to do in healthcare and other choices than to care for children. Unfortunately, the children seem to be put aside in some areas of our country, but that’s not true here.”

He added, “The members of the Ascension Health Group and the administration of Sacred Heart Hospital have come together with the amazing partnership of one of the greatest places on earth which is Pensacola, Northwest Florida and the community here, and they pooled resources and made sacrifices with one goal: to do what is right and make a beautiful place for children.”

The new five-story Children’s Hospital will be constructed south of the existing Children’s Hospital, extending from the current pediatric transport ambulance bay into the parking lot. The new building will connect to the current Children’s Hospital by a ground-level, glass-covered walkway and will include:

•Pediatric Emergency Department and Trauma Center An expansion and relocation of Sacred Heart’s current Pediatric Emergency Department, which is now next to the adult Emergency Department and Trauma Center. Consolidating children’s emergency and inpatient services in one building will allow for more coordinated care and shorter discharge processes for children. Sacred Heart provides the region’s only pediatric trauma referral center.

•Pediatric Surgery With the construction of the new Children’s Hospital, Sacred Heart will add six, pediatric-dedicated operating rooms. This will consolidate all surgeries and procedures that require sedation into one area with a child-friendly environment designed to include family support, all with the goal of reducing stress and anxiety.

•Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) This expansion and relocation of Sacred Heart’s current NICU beds will enable The Children’s Hospital to care for more premature and critically-ill infants from across Northwest Florida. In addition to offering the area’s only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, The Children’s Hospital maintains two specially equipped neonatal critical care transport ambulances for the transfer of premature and critically ill newborns from other hospitals across Northwest Florida to The Children’s Hospital. The NICU of the new Children’s Hospital will offer private rooms in its Level III unit, which includes the most critically ill babies.

•Pediatric Oncology With an expanded inpatient unit to provide specialized, inpatient care for children with cancer.

•Extended stay/observation beds Will represent a new inpatient unit for The Children’s Hospital, caring for children who aren’t yet ready to go home.

Debbie Calder, chair of the Sacred Heart System board, told the crowd the expansion involved more than children medical services.

“In addition to the new Children’s Hospital, Sacred Heart will expand our regional center, which is one of only 11 in the state of Florida and Northwest Florida’s only inpatient unit designed for expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancies,” said Calder. “The construction of the new Children’s Hospital will also undergo a complete renovation and expansion with Sacred Heart’s Maternity and Women’s Center, the most preferred birthing center in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.”

When pediatric services moves from the third floor to the new Children’s Hospital, the Maternity and Women’s Center will expand to take over the space left behind. This will raise the number of beds for mothers needing specialized maternity care from the hospital’s OB Emergency Care Center, as well as postpartum beds and surgical suites for mothers needing cesarean sections.

Then Calder made the surprise announcement about the name of the children’s hospital.

She said, “Sacred Heart is pleased to announce that we are renaming the hospital to honor two people who have been instrumental in making Pensacola a better place to live and to work.”

Calder said the board wanted to recognize the couple for their efforts to improve health and education of children in our community.

“On behalf of the Sacred Heart board and leadership team, I am honored to announce, in recognition of the many good works of Quint and Rishy Studer, we will rename our facility as the Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart,” she said as Sacred Heart staff unveiled the new logo and rendering of the new facility.

Quint Studer told the crowd that he and Rishy were humbled when Susan Davis, CEO of Sacred Heart Health System, told them that she would like the new facility to bear their name.

“We don’t like to put names on things,” said Studer. “The new downtown Y is an exception, but we only agreed to that because other families were also named.”

He talked about the need for the children’s hospital and that raising the money for it would be a “heavy lift.”

“It would be real easy for the Board of Directors and Susan Davis and others to say, ‘It just doesn’t make sense to have a standalone children’s hospital here in Pensacola. We’re not that big,’” said Studer, who explained that most children’s hospitals are attached to an academic medical center.

“It would have been just as easy for Ascension Healthcare to say to Susan Davis and the board here, ‘Susan, I know you have big dreams. I know you want to take care of all the children, but we’re just not big enough. We’re just not in the right location. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said.

“Thank God for us, Ascension Healthcare didn’t think like that,” said Studer. “The fact that Ascension Healthcare and The Daughters of Charity invested millions of dollars in Pensacola just shows that they are looking at all children are also Ascension children, whether they are in St. Louis, Indianapolis, or here in Pensacola.”

Before he closed his remarks, Studer said he hoped that the community would rally behind the effort and that other healthcare systems would help make it a reality.

He said, “The reality is, this shouldn’t be about which hospital has what. Every hospital and every healthcare provider should pull together. We shouldn’t put competition ahead of children.”