Wolfson president previews hospital expansion

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  • | 12:00 p.m. March 9, 2011
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by Karen Brune Mathis

Managing Editor

Michael Aubin, completing his first quarter as hospital president for Wolfson Children’s Hospital, is prepping for an expanded service region, more potential patients, a new building and a continuing focus on child advocacy.

“We’ll spend a lot of time on child advocacy,” Aubin told close to 75 members of the Meninak Club of Jacksonville Monday.

Aubin, the meeting’s keynote speaker, was appointed president of Wolfson, the area’s only children’s hospital, by the boards of directors of Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital effective Jan. 1. He succeeds Larry Freeman, who retired as Wolfson’s administrator after 34 years.

As he retired, Freeman said Wolfson served about 40,000 children a year through inpatient and outpatient services. Those included about 10,000 a year admitted as patients.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital is part of the Baptist Medical Center campus on the Downtown Southbank. Passersby can see the progress of the 11-story patient tower that should be completed in 2012.

Construction is just outside Aubin’s office on the first floor of Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

Aubin outlined plans that include:

• A new strategic plan and a physician recruitment plan. Aubin said 25 new pediatric surgeons join the medical field each year, while 40 are retiring, which means children’s hospitals face recruitment challenges.

• A focus on child advocacy. Aubin shared that the hospital’s mission is “to promote optimal health for the region’s infants and children by providing patient- and family-centered care, education, research and advocacy.”

• Coordination of care for children with chronic complex needs.

• Increased capacity and services for Wolfson patients in the tower under construction.

• Affiliations and satellites in North Florida and South Georgia.

Aubin said Wolfson Children’s Hospital employs about 750 people now and will reach “close to 1,000” when the tower is completed.

The tower should be completed by the end of 2012, he said. “When you see it has walls, you have about a year,” he said, to complete internal construction, furnishings and equipment.

Aubin was the founding administrator and chief operating officer for St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital of Tampa. St. Joseph’s is part of the BayCare Health System.

At Wolfson, Aubin works with physicians and administrators with hospital partners Nemours Children’s Clinic, the University of Florida College of Medicine/Jacksonville and Mayo Clinic Florida.

Baptist Health is a faith-based, mission-driven system consisting of Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville and Baptist Heart Hospital; Baptist Medical Center Beaches; Baptist Medical Center Nassau; Baptist Medical Center South; and Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

Wolfson is a pediatric referral hospital serving the children of North Florida, Southeast Georgia and beyond.

Aubin traced the history of Wolfson Children’s Hospital to 1951, when the Wolfson Family Foundation donated $500,000 for a pediatric wing, followed in 1955 when the then Baptist Memorial Hospital established Wolfson within the hospital.

By 1972, according to Aubin’s presentation, pediatric physicians centered on Wolfson. In 1985, Wolfson reached an agreement with Nemours and by 1994, a “collaboration agreement” was reached with Wolfson, Nemours, The University of Florida and Shands.

The hospital moved into its existing building in 1993.

Aubin said Wolfson’s region now stretches south to Daytona Beach, north to Darien, Ga., and west beyond Tallahassee.

The population of infants through 17-year-olds in the region was 874,535 in 2010 and is projected to grow by 60,218, or 7 percent, by 2015, he said.

That 934,753 population will consist of 364,288 children in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties, 274,330 more in North Florida and another 296,135 in South Georgia.

A population of 1 million “allows for subspecialization,” said Aubin, meaning that there is demand for physicians and treatments for specific illnesses, conditions and diseases within the Wolfson system.

Aubin outlined Wolfson’s key partnerships:

• Nemours Children’s Clinic provides more than 90 pediatric specialists; offers hematology and oncology treatment; and also focuses on childhood diabetes, endocrinology and nutrition. Nemours does not have hospital beds in Jacksonville. Its patients that need hospitalization are at Wolfson.

• The University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville offers cardiovascular and neurosurgery services for children.

• Mayo Clinic Florida in Jacksonville provides bone marrow transplants.

The new hospital tower will expand and adjust Wolfson’s beds and services. It will also offer adult medical services.

Aubin presented numbers that show the current 185 beds will be expanded to 199 beds, with the addition of 12 beds for a cardiovascular surgery intensive care unit, two more research beds and two more beds for behavioral health, and fewer beds in a few other areas.

Post-construction in 2012:

• The 73 general medical/surgical beds will drop to 72.

• The 20-bed intensive care unit beds will remain the same number.

• The two research beds will double to four.

• The 48 neonatal intensive care unit bed will remain the same.

• The nine-bed stepdown ICU beds will decline to eight.

• The nine behavioral health beds will increase to 11.

• The 20 beds for oncology and four for bone marrow patients will become 24 beds for an oncology/bone marrow unit.

• There will be a 12-bed addition for a cardiovascular surgery ICU.

Aubin said the new building will provide enhanced and expanded support services for surgery, including a cardiovascular surgery suite and a neurosurgery suite; imaging and therapy; and a day hospital procedure center.

When interviewed in January, Aubin said half of the patients are under the age of 2 “and are totally vulnerable,” he said, while their “parents are having the

crisis of their lives.”

Aubin holds degrees in health services administration, with his bachelor’s degree from Providence College in Rhode Island and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Aubin said his two foremost challenges will be funding and enhancing a system of measuring treatment outcomes in pediatrics.

Well familiar in Florida with Medicaid issues, he said in January that he will work with legislators to educate them that 50 percent of his patients are covered by the Medicaid program. Program cuts can affect the system of health care, particularly physicians.

“The largest user of Medicaid services is children,” Aubin told the Meninak members Monday.

Legislators are proposing changes to the Medicaid system to reduce costs. “The important part is to have access to pediatric specialists,” said Aubin.

The Medicaid changes and their impact on how physicians are paid is a significant issue, he said.

“It is a major problem and we are going to have to deal with it,” said Aubin.

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