Thanks to Valley Children’s Hospital, a doctor is just five minutes away for 2-year-old Leonardo Romero.
That’s a great comfort and convenience for his 22-year-old single mother, Gabriela Hernandez of Merced. Leonardo is connected to a ventilator and feeding tube as a result of being born with Cornelia de Lange syndrome, a disorder that causes developmental delays, dysmorphic appearance and heart defects.
Leonardo had heart surgery at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera when he was 6 months old, but most of his follow-up appointments can be done at Valley Children’s Olivewood Specialty Care Center in Merced.
Last month, Leonardo was back at the Merced clinic for a routine echocardiogram – a type of ultrasound to check his heart – and so his mother could go over the results of blood tests to see if she should change his medications.
Hernandez is grateful that his many follow-up appointments can happen close to home: “It saves us money, gas, time. … It just makes everything easier.”
People have been able to schedule follow-up appointments with Valley Children’s doctors in Merced for more than 20 years. The Merced location was the first in a growing network of satellite centers for the hospital.
Valley Children’s opened its newest specialty care center on March 1 in Visalia. The 220 S. Akers St. location has seven exam rooms and doctors trained in four medical specialties.
Another Valley Children’s specialty care center is planned in Fowler in 2018. The hospital also has centers in Modesto and Bakersfield. The newest Bakersfield location opened in March 2015.
Around 4,500 patients are seen each year at the Merced location by doctors who specialize in cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, perinatology, urology, and orthopedic and pediatric surgery.
“The main advantage, obviously, is distance, so the families don’t have to travel as far,” says Dr. Robert Scott Appleton during a follow-up visit for Leonardo. “Especially because some of our families don’t have transportation on their own, so they have to use public transportation … it really helps the families out who have limited resources, and that’s a large part of our community in Merced County.”
Valley Children’s also has satellite neonatal intensive care units in Fresno, Merced and Hanford, and the hospital provides additional services through partnerships with other health providers in Fresno, Reedley, Dinuba, Visalia, Hanford, Porterville, Merced, Modesto, Bakersfield, Tehachapi, San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria.
David Hodge Jr., who oversees the hospital’s clinics as executive director of the ambulatory care division, is excited to see the Valley Children’s network continue to grow.
“It has a profound impact on a family that is caring for a sick child,” he says, “being able to receive that care where they live. … I am most proud that we are able to provide that care for those families in their communities.”
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