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Pediatric surgery partnership seen as wave of the future

Margie Manning

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Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

A partnership between three healthcare powerhouses in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area could be a model for healthcare in the future.

Under a new agreement, pediatric surgeons from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital will provide pediatric general surgery and related services at Tampa General Hospital’s Children’s Medical Center. The surgeons from Johns Hopkins All Children’s also will open a pediatric general surgery clinic on the Tampa General campus, and there will be additional learning opportunities for USF Health medical students and graduate medical education trainees.

Dr. Paul Danielson

“This is one example of what has to happen in healthcare overall,” said Dr. Paul Danielson, chair of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s department of surgery. “With the rising cost of healthcare, our attention to how we spend every single dollar is more important now than it’s ever been. When it works out and it’s beneficial for everybody, I think these kinds of partnerships are the wave of the future. There will always be competition. We don’t want to have a monolithic system. But for something like this, I think it will raise the standard for all the kids on the west coast of Florida.”

Surgeons from Johns Hopkins All Children’s, a 259-bed hospital in St. Petersburg, have helped cover when needed at Tampa General for several years, but this is a whole new enterprise, Danielson said. “We’re not just providing coverage. We’re there to essentially be their pediatric service line. We’ll develop not only the clinical side of it, but we’ll be involved with the quality program, with education, and with research. Essentially, we’ll become their division of pediatric surgery.”

Johns Hopkins All Children’s currently has three surgeons in Tampa with plans to hire a fourth. The Tampa staff also will include two advance practice providers. Administration will remain in St. Petersburg, Danielson said.

He said the move is in the best interest of children in the area.

“Their best interest is what our mission is all about, and if you stop to think about it, Tampa General has that same mission and  USF has that same mission. So it made sense that we collaborate as opposed to compete for something like this,” Danielson said.

Surgeons who perform procedures on adults often become sub-specialists, but that’s not happened as much among pediatric surgeons, Danielson said.

“For the basic standard cases that pediatric surgeons do — everything from appendectomies to treatment of newborns with congenital anomalies — that happens on both campuses. It has historically and will continue to do so,” he said. 

Still, each hospital has its own specialties. For instance, Johns Hopkins All Children’s has a heart center where it does heart transplants. But All Children’s currently does not do kidney transplants, and Tampa General does. It would not be cost-effective to duplicate those services and would dilute the expertise available to try to do so, Danielson said.

“If your child has appendicitis or a gall bladder problem, you can go to Tampa General or All Children’s and you’ll get the same high-quality care. But if your child has a very unique disease or condition, they may be better served at one hospital or the other,” Danielson said. “Before, that sometimes got almost got competitive in nature … Now it’s more clear. If it’s best for the patient to be taken care of by these specialists, then that’s where the patient should go, no matter which campus it happens to be.”

The partnership also will expand services to children who otherwise might not have access to All Children’s doctors.

“A lot of families whose kids are sick are poor. Many of them are on Medicaid. It’s hard for them to make it to the hospital. They might be a single-parent household and if the parent has to work, how do you get your kid to the doctor? If the doctor is closer to where you are, it’s easier. We think the kids will get more care, more frequent care and more timely care, if we make it easier for the kids to have access,” he said.

Danielson said he couldn’t talk about the financial arrangements between the partners. 

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