Editor's note: This has been corrected from an earlier version.
A Wichita hospital has more room in its ER to care for sick kids — and a special treat for them, too.
Wesley Healthcare's expanded pediatric emergency department, a $3.5 million project, opened Thursday.
The expanded ER — separated from the adult ERs by hallways and locked doors — has 14 rooms and features splashes of yellow, blue, green and orange in each exam room and at the nurses' station. And behind a locked door where medications are kept stands a slushy machine that serves "Strawberiwi" and "Blew Raspberry" flavors.
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The expansion is welcomed by physician Bryan Henderson, who said the flu season struck the ER particularly hard this winter.
"In 12 hours we used to see about 35 to 50 patients," said Henderson, medical director of the pediatric ER. "(This winter) we had days where we saw 75 to 90 patients in 12 hours, so it was quite challenging.
"This . . . came just in time to help our expanding numbers."
Wesley first opened a pediatric ER in 2007 as a way to decrease wait times for all ER patients and provide "a more kid-friendly environment" with child-sized equipment intended to ease their anxiety, a spokeswoman said.
The addition of the Wesley Children's Hospital in 2016 further increased demand for the pediatric ER.
Wesley officials marked the expanded ER's opening by announcing the next phase of work for the children's hospital. The $17 million project will relocate pediatric dialysis and pediatric sedation from other parts of Wesley's main hospital to the children's hospital, Wesley CEO Bill Voloch said.
An in-house pharmacy for pediatric patients will also be added.
"We've actually seen our pediatric oncology business grow three times over the last year and a half, and so more kids are staying here to get their treatment," Voloch said. "By having a pediatric pharmacy we're able to mix those chemotherapy drugs right there, right by the patient."
Those additional units will be on the fifth and sixth floors of the children's hospital, he said.
Construction work is expected to begin in six months and be completed in late fall of 2019.
"This combined with our pediatric ER completion that opens today will, when you total it all up, will be just shy of a $50 million investment that Wesley and HCA has made into the kids of this community," Voloch said.
He said the community has responded to the addition of the children's hospital, which has treated kids from as far away as Colorado and northern Oklahoma. Since its opening, Voloch said 32 new pediatricians have joined Wesley's medical staff as well as doctors specializing in pediatric urology, pulmonology and plastic surgery.
Voloch thinks the addition of the children's hospital has eliminated the need for some parents to take their sick children to other children's hospitals in Denver, Oklahoma City and Kansas City.
"What this means is ... less kids are driving back and forth to the other bigger cities and they're able to stay here in Wichita, which was always our goal," he said.