I have been asked numerous times by involved community members, especially parents and guardians, what Children's Hospital Colorado response should be to HealthONE Presbyterian/St. Luke's Hospital's announced plans to build a new pediatric facility in Denver. My initial response is that I am not surprised by their decision. Instead I am disappointed.
My healthcare career began in 1973 at Park View Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Park View was HCA's very first hospital. I worked for a while in their recovery room and then learned how to scrub-in on OR cases. I primarily second-assisted on general surgery cases. During that remarkable year, I had an opportunity to observe the CEO. He was personable, cared for his staff as well as patients and was an inspiring role model. When he told me there was such a thing as a children's hospital, my career choice became obvious.
Since arriving in Denver, I have had the pleasure of meeting several HealthONE executives. Generally speaking, the HealthONE executives I have met demonstrate the same traits as that CEO I met in 1977. So, given my background experience with HCA and recent experience with HealthONE and their leadership, I am disappointed in their decision to spend millions of dollars to compete with a world-class children's hospital that already meets and surpasses the needs of children in this region.
The justification for building a second children's hospital in Denver seems to be predicated on a model that exists in other communities of our size where two children's hospitals co-exist. Apparently, HCA has either overlooked or ignored several key realities in those markets. First of all, can anyone name Children's Hospital Colorados in Philadelphia? Of course, we have all heard of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), but very few people have heard of the "other" childrens' hospitals there. CHOP was recently rated #1 by US News and World Report. By contrast one of the other children's hospitals in Philadelphia just closed its doors. How about the two children's hospitals in St. Louis? We have all heard of Children's Hospital Colorado in St. Louis, but what is the name of the "other" children's hospital?
I am not saying these other children's hospitals aren't good, only that in markets where there are two children's hospitals, one is deemed great and one is referred to as the "other" children's hospital. The "other" children's hospitals will never be cited as being great or probably even ranked in the top 100. Some are good, some mediocre, but none great.
So, one may wonder what is so special about being ranked. The rankings, particularly those that measure the quality of services being provided children clearly identify those that are realizing better results and outcomes. For my children, there is no question about which hospital I would choose -- the one that is nationally ranked because the hospital that consistently achieves better outcomes for their patients is truly the only choice a responsible parent could make.
Given my admiration for HealthONE's commitment to excellence, I am disappointed they have allowed PS/L to be content with always being referred to as "that other children's hospital." Secondly, there are very few current needs for children requiring hospitalization, particularly given our new expanded state-of-the-art Children's Hospital and our extensive network of care. There are many other health care needs facing Denver that $100 million could address much more effectively. That HealthONE and PS/L have chosen to spend scarce resources to replicate care for children rather than address other more pressing and serious health issues of Coloradans is disappointing.
So, my answer to those concerned about how P/SL's decision might impact us, I say there's no need for concern. As long as we remain focused on providing excellent patient care and remain true to our mission, P/SL will remain the "other" children's hospital. The recognition we receive as one of the best children's hospitals in the country and THE best children's hospital west of the Mississippi River, should speak volumes to our referring physicians, patients and families. We are and always will be Children's Hospital Colorado!