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Families speak out against Ascension St. John pediatric units closing

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Posted at 8:54 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 17:16:45-05

TULSA, Okla. — Families who have stayed in the pediatric intensive care unit at Ascension St. John in Tulsa are speaking out against its closure.

The hospital is planning to close its pediatric ICU and general pediatric inpatient unit to make room for adult ICU beds.

READ MORE: Ascension St. John to close pediatric ICU, general pediatric inpatient unit

But families worry about what will happen once it closes.

“It’s a terrible idea," said Aurora Rutledge.

Rutledge and her 5-year-old son, Lachlan, are familiar with the Ascension St. John pediatric ICU. He has seven severe anaphylactic food allergies, landing him in the PICU there three different times. When Rutledge heard the news of plans to close it, she worried for her son and others.

“Why would you only want one hospital for a city this size to be able to handle any type of crisis pediatric-wise?" Rutledge said.

She’s not alone in her worry.

Ashley Johnson’s daughter, Ella, is 14-months-old and has spent a collective six months at the Ascension St. John NICU and PICU with six different surgeries. She said once the PICU closes, she doesn’t know what she’ll do if Ella needs another surgery.

“There’s one doctor that a group of us moms we all use and he’s just in Oklahoma," Johnson said. "He’s just at St. John. So if we need to do any additional surgeries or any future people have additional surgeries, they have to go out of state.”

Once Ascension St. John closes the two pediatric units, the state will only have three ICUs for children. The one at the Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis and two in Oklahoma City.

The idea of traveling for critical health care is worrying parents.

“It’s frightening thinking of, okay, if we have to go spend two weeks, how do we do that financially and do a home base out of Ohio or Houston or something like that," Johnson said.

Both Johnson and Rutledge praised the nurses and doctors in the pediatric units. They said they became like family and made them comfortable during a stressful time.

Rutledge worries about what losing them could mean for the community.

“They are nurses that are trained for children," Rutledge said. "So, they’re going to be lost to the Ascension system. And you’re going to lose the nurses that are wonderful there, the doctors that are wonderful there. And they’re just going to be shoving them aside.”

Ascension St. John is closing the two pediatric units to make way for a $27 million expansion that will add 36 adult ICU beds.

It said in a statement:

"Ascension St. John Medical Center recently announced our plan to invest $27M to expand adult ICU capacity over the next two and a half years, which is expected to place ASJMC at the forefront of regional, critical care access. In order to accommodate the additional adult critical-care capacity we announced our plan to close our pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and general pediatric inpatient unit effective April 30, 2022. This decision was based on both a community needs assessment along with a thoughtful analysis of services already being offered in the community. There will be no interruption to our current pediatric ambulatory or surgical services, nor any interruption to our neonatal intensive care (NICU) services."
Ascension St. John

The pediatric units are set to close on April 30.

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