Gary Dinges
Austin American-Statesman

Houston’s Texas Children’s Hospital is planning to bring its brand of specialized medical care to Central Texas in a big way.

The health care provider plans an aggressive expansion into the Austin area that will, over the next five years, bring 18 primary care pediatric practices, four pediatric urgent care centers, three pediatric specialty clinics and two maternal-fetal practices to the region.

The first urgent care center is scheduled to open in South Austin in spring 2018, the hospital said. A letter of intent has been signed for space, and a lease is being finalized, Texas Children’s said. The hospital did not yet disclose the exact location.

While the plans might appear to put Texas Children’s in competition with Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, that won’t be the case, said Mark Kline, physician in chief for Texas Children’s. Instead, Kline said he expects the two entities to work hand in hand to keep Central Texas children healthy.

“Dell Children’s dominates the market in terms of inpatient pediatric care,” Kline said. “Our strategy is to come in with a very strong outpatient program. We think we will be very complementary. We hope to have a very close, symbiotic relationship. We want to be good partners.”

Texas Children’s, which is affiliated with the Baylor College of Medicine, focuses its operations in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, but has been branching out in recent years. Just this year, for instance, it opened a hospital in The Woodlands, a suburb 30 miles north of downtown Houston.

It also has a hospital near the West Houston suburb of Katy, in addition to operating what Texas Children’s says is the largest pediatric primary care network in the United States.

Austin, hospital executives say, was a logical next step as they look to grow.

“We are constantly evaluating new opportunities, and working to advance our mission to provide all children and women with the specialized care Texas Children’s delivers,” Texas Children’s president and CEO Mark Wallace said. “We see this as an extension of our mission, to expand care and access to even more children and women in Texas.

“We are dedicated to providing families with the right care, in the right place, at the right time. Adding pediatric-focused urgent care, primary care and specialty care, as well as maternal-fetal medicine options in Austin will help us to serve the state of Texas even more successfully.”

For parents searching for the best care – for everyday appointments and especially in emergency situations – for their child, facilities such as those operated by Texas Children’s offer a number of benefits, Kline said.

“Children aren’t just small adults,” he said. “There are many daily health-care providers who don’t appreciate the striking differences between children and adults. There’s a multitude of differences. When your child is ill, you want your child to be seen by a provider who does that all the time, not 5 percent of the time. They’re intimately familiar with all the issues a child might face.”

Texas Children’s plans to be in Austin “for the long haul,” according to Kline and other executives, offering medical care after hours and on weekends, in addition to during normal office hours.

“We believe this will be a great benefit for the entire community,” said Kay Tittle, president of Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Urgent Care. “We plan to work with local pediatricians to give them a place to send their patients when their offices are closed, providing them with timely communication so they have the relevant information they need when their patients return to their office. We are creating a place pediatricians and caregivers can feel confident sending their children knowing they will be well cared for by experts specially trained in pediatrics.”
Original article here

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