Kalispell Regional Healthcare is moving forward on building a 190,000-square-foot pediatric center that aims to treat children in need of intensive care closer to home.
The roughly $40 million addition is part of the hospital’s effort to bring pediatric subspecialties under one roof in Montana, according to Tagen Vine, the president of the Kalispell Regional Healthcare Foundation.
The Women’s and Children’s Pavilion will be a three-story building located east of the main entrance to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, along Sunnyview Lane and Buffalo Hill Drive. Vine said construction is expected to begin in August.
He said the building will be completed in a phased approach so that services can kick off on the first floor sometime in spring 2018.
“Hundreds of kids if not more have to leave the state to get treatment each year,” Vine said. “This center means that for the first time, Montanans would have access to specialists for their kids 24/7 — and that’s huge.”
Vine said Montana children in need of emergency surgery or specialized medical care have had to travel to places like Spokane, Seattle, Denver or Salt Lake City. He said those trips have added to the overall stress and cost for families seeking care.
Dr. Federico Seifarth, a pediatric surgeon who joined the hospital in April, said he expects pediatric intensive care to be available by fall. He said the new service would be temporarily based out of the hospital’s existing surgical wing.
He said by 2017, the hospital expects to have a complete pediatric service line operating every hour of the day.
“In the past, we have sent kids away, or had adult surgeon specialties adapting what they know to treat kids. That doesn’t have to be the case any more,” Seifarth said. “Our goal is to give specialty care from premature babies up to adolescents to keep them from having to leave Montana.”
Trent Spratling thought his 5-year-old son was sick from eating too much candy during Halloween 2015 — until the boy lost consciousness.
Ethan Spratling arrived in the Kalispell Regional Emergency Room with a twisted intestine and no life signs.
He needed emergency surgery.
“The doctor told me he didn’t specialize in children, but thought it was necessary for him to try to save Ethan’s life,” Spratling said. “And he did, but he could have easily sent Ethan to another hospital for a specialist and just hope he made it in time to survive.”
Ethan was flown to Spokane’s children’s center for follow-up surgeries. For a week, Spratling and his wife drove the eight-hour round trip to Spokane six times to visit their son in between work and caring for their two other children.
Spratling said he didn’t advocate for the children’s center because of the inconvenience of driving out of state for care.
“We need specialist care here because not every doctor will say yes to surgery like they did for my son. Kids will get sick, have accidents and need help — immediately. We need to know no one will be turned away,” Spratling said.
Dr. Seifarth said he left the Cleveland Clinic — one of the nation’s top hospitals — to help oversee the creation of the new center.
Seifarth, originally from Switzerland, has worked at renowned children’s hospitals such as the Miami Children’s Hospital and the University Children’s Hospital in Zurich. He said he took the job in Kalispell because the mountains reminded him of home and because of the rare opportunity to build a program from scratch.
“If you look at Boston Children’s, this is a 100-year-old hospital, they cannot incorporate all the things they would do if they were building it today. We can, and it’s phenomenal,” Seifarth said.
The first floor of the building will include 12 neonatal intensive-care beds for newborns and 12 pediatric intensive-care beds. It also will include two operating rooms for C-sections, and a third for pediatric surgeries.
The second floor will consist of specialist clinics and offices. The third floor will develop as the community’s further needs are defined, Seifarth said.
He said while the building is not expected to be completed for several years, its programs are already taking shape.
A year ago, the hospital had a pediatric anesthesiologist and a neurologist who had pediatric fellowship training. Seifarth said by May, the hospital had recruited nine specialists who were already operating in temporary conditions in the hospital’s surgical center.
Vine said the hospital identified increased pediatric services as a priority because it could help Montana families as well as keep jobs and revenue in the state.
He estimated the addition will require at minimum 50 new hires, from nurses to lab technicians. He said the hospital is still searching to fill roughly five specialist positions.
“This is another opportunity for locals to find work that can keep them in the valley,” Vine said. “And while there’s a national health-care shortage, we’re not concerned about recruiting people to this beautiful community. Dr. Seifarth is an example of that.”
He said while the hospital is currently starting the more than $40 million project using loans, he hopes donations will help cover the cost. He said once the building is operational, he believes it will break even after a few years of operation.
“This is a leap of faith, but it’s not blind,” Vine said. “The board of Kalispell Regional and the senior leadership decided to bring this service here because it isn’t available locally or really in the state. We believe that decision will be worth it to fill the community need.”
To learn more or to make a donation, visit www.krh.org/foundation.
Reporter Katheryn Houghton may be reached at 758-4436 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.