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More care for kids: Inpatient pediatric care returns to UNC Rex Hospital this month

Posted January 16, 2020 2:07 p.m. EST
Updated January 16, 2020 4:21 p.m. EST

The inpatient wing opens Jan. 21, 2020.

— UNC Health Care is bolstering its pediatric services in Wake County this month, opening a new inpatient pediatric wing at UNC REX Hospital and expanding its UNC Children's Raleigh outpatient clinic.

When it opens Jan. 21, the new 10-bed inpatient unit will be located on the seventh floor of UNC REX and serve pediatric patients who might have typically been transferred to UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill or another hospital, such as WakeMed in Raleigh.

And the UNC Children's Raleigh clinic, which had a soft opening in December, is home to a range of pediatric specialties, including a pediatric oncology infusion unit where young cancer patients can get chemotherapy and other treatments from UNC without having to travel to Chapel Hill. There's also a dedicated pediatric urgent care clinic, which opened Monday.

“We are investing in the future of children by ensuring they have the highest quality health care as close to home as possible,” said Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health Care, in a press release.

The move comes about seven or eight years after UNC REX pulled the plug on inpatient pediatric care and 10 years after WakeMed opened its massive Children's Hospital near downtown Raleigh. WakeMed's Children’s Hospital includes a 45-bed inpatient unit and a 22-bed dedicated children's emergency department. It serves 120,000 children a year.

At REX, however, there has been a gap in service for kids and families ever since. The hospital delivers thousands of babies each year — 4,800 in 2019 — but there have been few options for children at the hospital once they no longer need newborn care. Just a handful of children would stay overnight with issues such as pneumonia or to be evaluated after a surgical procedure.

New inpatient pediatric unit at UNC REX Hospital

The addition of the pediatric unit marks the return of inpatient pediatric care at REX. "With this unit, we are able to better serve the children in our community," said Dr. Emilee Lewis, the medical director of hospital pediatrics at REX.

Here's what's available at each of the new facilities.

UNC REX Hospital Inpatient Pediatrics Unit

A team of pediatric hospitalists from UNC Children's will help run the unit and care for children who come in from the emergency room or the expanded UNC children's clinic or are referred by their own doctors. REX leaders expect to treat health issues such as dehydration, constipation, failure to thrive, pneumonia, asthma and cellulitis there. Until now, these patients were typically sent to other hospitals in the region. Specialists from the new pediatric clinic also will be available to treat young patients there.

Each room along the hall features an animal theme, such as penguin, giraffe or fawn. And it also includes a play space for children, stocked with toys, and a quiet area for parents to talk with doctors, check email or have a moment to themselves. UNC REX is working to raise additional money for the unit to add more amenities, including gaming and other ways for pediatric patients to pass the time. Money raised through this year's REX Hospital Open golf tournament will support pediatric care at the hospital.

Play space inside UNC REX's new inpatient pediatric wing

UNC Children's Raleigh

At 2801 Blue Ridge Rd., the new clinic is across the street from its previous location and, at 50,000 square feet, is five times the size. Specialties served in the clinic include allergy and immunology, behavioral health, cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology-oncology, neurology, pulmonology and more. The medical building also includes a laboratory and pharmacy. And there's a dedicated pediatric urgent care clinic, a first for UNC Health Care, which is open 4 p.m. to midnight, weekdays, and noon to midnight, weekends.

Pediatric infusion wing at UNC REX's new pediatric clinic

The pediatric infusion unit includes a dozen chairs for pediatric patients to receive a variety of treatments and medications, including chemotherapy. The open and airy rooms offer big picture windows. Child life specialists will provide activities to keep children who are receiving treatment distracted and entertained. For a closer look, UNC Children's Raleigh clinic will host an open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25, with tours, food, face painting, crafts and other activities. It's open to the public.