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West Florida Hospital, Nemours Join Forces

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Almost a year after plans were announced to sever ties with Sacred Heart Health System, Nemours will partner with West Florida Hospital to provide specialized care for children beginning this fall.

The care provided by the new partnership will extend beyond Pensacola to the rest of the western Panhandle, says Carlton Ulmer, West Florida President and CEO.

“Not just here in Pensacola, but how do we expand children’s care so that child and family can stay in Fort Walton and Navarre,” said Ulmer. “And how do we expand children’s care to be able to provide services in Panama City?”

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Carlton Ulmer, President/CEO of West Florida Hospital

“At Nemours, we’re committed to taking care of the children and families of northwest Florida today – what we’ve been doing for 20 years – and for in the future,” said Dr. Mary Mehta, Nemours Chief Medical Officer.

The partnership will roll out in two phases, with some services beginning at West Florida later this year.

“In 2018, we will start with a whole new in-patient program here, that will include pediatric critical care; pediatric in-patent beds specifically for our complex medical needs for our children,” Mehta told the audience.

The changes also include a pediatric intensive care unit; general pediatric rooms, and an infusion center. Another part of the venture is Nemours Cardiac Center, an integrated network that offers advanced, multidisciplinary care for kids with common, complex and rare heart conditions.

That hits close to home with Dr. Mehta, who’s a pediatric cardiologist.

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Dr. Mary Mehta, pediatric cardiologist and Chief Medical Officer, Nemours

“With that, we also have access to pediatric health care sub-specialist throughout the entire Nemours system,” said Mehta. “That will allow us to bring extra super-specialists to come in to provide care locally. In many cases, these are going to be things that have never been taken care of here.”

The two dozen doctors at Nemours in Pensacola serve more than 22,000 children annually in northwest Florida, south Alabama and neighboring areas.

“We’re in incredible company with Nemours; they’ve been in our community for over two decades, “said West Florida CEO Carlton Ulmer. “The physicians, the employees of Nemours have lived here; buy their groceries here, go to church here, [and] raise their families here. And we’re excited to have this collaboration.”

As the West Florida/Nemours partnership develops, there’s still some unfinished business. Nemours’ contract with Sacred Heart Health Systems expires next March. In an interview last fall with WUWF, Dr. Mary Mehta had indicated Nemours would become a stand-alone facility.

“Not so much a ‘stand alone,’ we’re evaluating our spaces for leases,” said Mehta on Tuesday. “We need an in-patient service; we do not think it’s the best for children to be sent away for having a lot of their surgeries done. This allows us to partner with somebody really pushing to be able to elevate the care of pediatric in-patient services.”

And Nemours brings other programs to the West Florida table. They include pediatric diabetes self-management education; cystic fibrosis, and accredited pediatric transthoracic and fetal echocardiogram programs.