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Akron Children’s Hospital buying nursery at Summa Health

Akron Children’s Hospital is finalizing a deal to own and operate the special-care nursery at Summa Health System’s Akron City Hospital. The boards from the two hospitals are expected to approve the deal in separate meetings Thursday. Once approved, Akron Children’s will take over the 21-bed unit for premature and critically ill newborns on Jan. […]

Akron Children’s Hospital is finalizing a deal to own and operate the special-care nursery at Summa Health System’s Akron City Hospital.

The boards from the two hospitals are expected to approve the deal in separate meetings Thursday. Once approved, Akron Children’s will take over the 21-bed unit for premature and critically ill newborns on Jan. 1.

”We’re excited about bringing the best of both worlds together,” said Lanie Ward, Summa’s vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer. ”We have an outstanding special-care nursery. This is moving forward with a new enhancement, bringing together these great institutions.”

Akron Children’s already operates the special-care nursery at Akron General Medical Center and another unit at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown. The deal with Summa helps ”establish one standard of care for neonatal services in the community,” said Shawn Lyden, executive vice president at Akron Children’s.

”The staff is trained and educated in the same way,” he said. ”It results in more standardization of care throughout the region.”

With the acquisition, Akron Children’s will run a total of 140 licensed neonatal beds in Akron and the Mahoning Valley. ”There are some efficiencies with adding these units,” Lyden said.

The special-care nursery is intended for babies who need short-time respiratory and other medical support, typically for one week or less.

Newborns who require more invasive treatments or surgery will continue to be transported to Akron Children’s Hospital’s Level 3 neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) on the main campus. (Akron City Hospital has a Level 2 nursery.)

Of the 3,100 babies born every year at Akron City Hospital, about 350 require specialized care, Ward said. Each day, an average of 13 newborns are receiving care in the nursery.

Akron Children’s doctors who specialize in the care of premature or critically ill newborns already have been staffing the special-care nursery at Akron Children’s Hospital.

According to Summa officials, the unit wasn’t losing money. ”It was not about the money,” Ward said. ”It was about the patient care.”

Under the agreement, Akron Children’s is purchasing the special-care nursery from Summa and then leasing the space within Akron City Hospital to run the unit. Financial terms of the sale and the multi-year lease were not released.

The pediatric hospital plans to invest $1 million in the unit at Akron City for new newborn respiratory equipment and furnishings for parents and visitors. All but two of the 56 full-time and part-time nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists and other staff who work in the special-care nursery will be offered positions with Akron Children’s Hospital, Ward said.

Staff will rotate between the main campus NICU and the Akron City Hospital nursery, Lyden said. Some employees of the special-care nursery are expressing concerns about whether their shifts, hours, pay rates and seniority will change after the unit switches ownership.

Many of the employees will get an increase in pay after the transition, Lyden said. In most cases, their years of service at Akron City will be honored by Akron Children’s.

Cheryl Powell is a health reporter for The Akron Beacon Journal, the daily newspaper in Akron and a syndication partner of MedCity News.

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