LAWRENCE — Sarah Hardy-Larocque took her son Nick to Lawrence General Hospital with a condition called optical cellulitis — an inflammation of the eye that can cause blindness.
Nick, 5, is one of more than 20,000 children who go through the hospital annually and Hardy-Larocque had nothing but praise for how her son was treated at the new Pediatric Center.
The center, the result of a recent $576,000 refurbishing, will be officially opened with a private reception today. The funding came from contributions by more than 1,000 donors.
"From the minute we arrived at the LGH Emergency Room it was as if our son was their only patient. We were triaged, put into a room, seen by numerous pediatricians, doctors and nurses — all who had immediately established a treatment plan," Hardy-Larocque of Haverhill said.
"Pediatrics was top on our list," said Dianne J. Anderson, chief executive officer at Lawrence General. "Pediatrics is family oriented and I wanted to provide that for the parents. We wanted an environment that matches the experienced care we provide."
A collaboration with Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center started in 1997 and means pediatricians from Boston will be at Lawrence General around the clock, every day of the year. The unit also has 20 nurses who are certified in Pediatric Advanced Life Support.
"This is a very successful way of bringing doctors, nurses and parents to the health care of their child," said Dr. Dan Charles Hale, medical director of pediatric hospitalists at Lawrence General.
Hardy-Larocque agrees. "We felt engaged in our son's treatment plan rather than just watching. They made sure we knew everything every step of the way. They even made the follow-up appointments with the specialists. The continuity of care was seamless," Hardy-Larocque said.
Another advantage of the collaboration is that a sick child can be treated closer to home without having to pay $3,500 extra for a hospital stay in Boston.
"The future of health care reform is local," Anderson said. "With our extensive medical care, it's a relief for parents to know they can stay here while their children get the care they need."
The center has five private rooms with a total of 14 beds and couches in rooms that flip over into beds for parents. Each room is equipped with WiFi, puzzle and game tables and flat screen HD televisions with DVD players.
The unit's highlight is a painting done by a friend of Late Night Show host Jay Leno in appreciation for the care Leno's mother received while in the hospital in 1994.
While making the children's stay more comfortable, the new center has many amenities for doctors and nurses.
Every room has a computer where physicians can type the patient's assessment as they finish their checkups and all medical records are kept electronically.
"It cuts down on communication and errors," said Kristen Blake, a registered nurse. "It's a closed loop system which makes it so much easier,"