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Hospitals partner for at-risk infants

Officials at Dayton Children’s and MVH say the partnership will improve care

The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton and Miami Valley Hospital have formed a joint venture to better coordinate neonatal care for the area’s sickest babies.

The partnership, effective July 1, will be called the Southwest Ohio Neonatal Collaborative.

Under the agreement, babies born or brought to MVH in need of complex neonatal care will be sent to Dayton Children’s. Both hospitals have Level III neonatal intensive care units, or NICUs, capable of caring for the most fragile newborns, but Dayton Children’s has access to more pediatric doctors with expertise in a sub-specialities.

Miami Valley and Dayton Children’s have had an informal relationship for more than 30 years, and combined the two hospitals care for more than 80 percent of the critically ill newborns in the region, hospital officials said.

At least 85 percent of the complex neonatal care in the region is delivered at Dayton Children’s, which is the Miami Valley’s only dedicated children’s hospital serving 20 Ohio counties and eastern Indiana. Each year the hospital cares for more than 290,000 children.

Having a formal agreement gives “structure” to the informal arrangement and allows the hospitals to align services and expertise more effectively to improve outcomes for high-risk mothers and babies, according to Deborah Feldman, Dayton Children’s president and CEO.

Feldman said the partnership will be an integral part of her hospital’s “Destination 2020” initiative to improve the health status of local children over the next seven years.

“The focus will be on doing what we do even better than we already do it,” she said. “Our goal is to make this the very best place to be born in Ohio.”

Feldman declined to discuss financial terms of the partnership, which she described as a “shared financial model” that would involve “shared governance and shared financial risk.”

Not a merger

But she stressed the agreement is not a merger.

“Our board of trustees, our leadership here at the hospital, and our employees are very committed to remaining an independent hospital,” Feldman said.

Jim Pancoast, president and CEO of Premier Health, said the partnership will improve care for the region: “We see this collaboration as an important step to enhance regional care for tiny and seriously-ill babies.”

While the two hospitals’ nurseries will continue to operate independently, a board of directors will govern the joint venture, including four representatives each from Dayton Children’s and Premier Health Partners, which operates MVH.

In addition to Feldman, the Dayton Children’s board members are: David Miller, vice president and chief financial officer; Dr. M. David Yohannan, medical director of neonatology and newborn intensive care; and C. Renae Phillips, vice president for patient care services and chief nurse executive.

From Premier: Mary Boosalis, executive vice president and chief operating officer; Marc Belcastro, medical director of neonatal intensive care at MVH; Bobbie Gerhart, president and CEO of MVH; and Mark Shaw, Premier’s vice president of managed care and decision support.

The joint venture also calls for the formation of a clinical care advisory group to determine best practices and develop common protocols and other services.

Boosalis said it’s too early to say exactly how the advisory groups’ recommendations will take shape.

“We haven’t had our first meeting yet,” she said, noting the group will be formed after July 1. “Right now…we have sort of a vision around quality; taking two strong programs and saying, ‘What can we learn from each other?’”

The Dayton Children’s-MVH partnership comes just months after Kettering Medical Center upgraded its NICU last summer to handle babies as young as 28 weeks and weighing as little as 2.2 pounds, and brought in staff from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Before Kettering upgraded its facilities, MVH received about 7 percent of its high-risk NICU referrals from Kettering.

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