Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis just did what many of its peers long to do: It laid the groundwork for a regional child-care network.
Last month, the 190-bed hospital signed an agreement with 871-bed St. John's Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis to collaborate on programs for children with neurological disorders.
The agreement loosely ties Cardinal Glennon to AJL, a three-hospital network that includes St. John's (June 20, p. 30). The children's hospital formally belongs to St. Louis Health Care Network with five other members of SSM Health Care System and two other St. Louis-area hospitals (June 27, p. 40).
Aligning with multiple networks is a goal shared by many children's hospitals, but few actually have done so.
"A tertiary children's hospital cannot exist solely on the referrals of one network," said Douglas Ries, Cardinal Glennon's president and chief executive officer.
The collaboration expands the ability of St. John's to diagnose and treat children with seizures, sleep disorders and other neurological troubles. Cardinal Glennon, meanwhile, will gain some referrals for children needing more complex care. More importantly, its work with St. John's will extend its influence into the western counties bordering St. Louis, Mr. Ries said.
The hospitals are discussing joint efforts in other areas of pediatric surgery. Their medical staffs overlap, and they already work together. Cardinal Glennon, for example, reads some diagnostic tests performed at St. John's and provides coverage for the hospital's pediatric intensive-care unit.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Glennon is sorting out strategy with other members of the St. Louis Health Care Network. Although some services should remain at Cardinal Glennon's current location, many could be moved to other network sites and coordinated by Cardinal Glennon, Mr. Ries said. "The vision that I have is Cardinal Glennon's child health services diffused throughout the community."
The time frame for Cardinal Glennon's transformation is short: 12 to 18 months if a strategy is developed quickly, but no longer than three years, Mr. Ries said.
Its plans are being spurred by market changes. BJC Health System acquired 357-bed Missouri Baptist Medical Center recently and forged an agreement to merge with 235-bed St. Louis Children's Hospital (June 13, p. 6), Cardinal Glennon's main competitor. The system is expected to expand obstetrics services at Missouri Baptist's western campuses and to strengthen St. Louis Children's outreach programs.-