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Dr. Vernessa Davis-Tharpe Discusses Pediatrics Unit During Pandemic

Hi, I am Dr. Vernessa Davis-Tharpe. My job is Medical Director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Service at Jackson Madison County General Hospital.

I am here today to talk about Pediatrics at the hospital and the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on our service. You probably have heard that children are less severely affected when they are infected with coronavirus, this is true. We have fewer Pediatric hospitalizations with coronavirus than the adult population. We have had a lot of news stories about the hospital being full of Covid patients. However, that is not so much the case on the Pediatric service. We have had some patients but very few. One thing that has happened to us with this masking and isolation is that we have seen fewer respiratory illnesses. Usually, at this time of year, we are full of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and children with Bronchiolitis. However, this year not so much. We are seeing much less of that and we wonder if it is because people are not coming to the hospital to be seen or if they are afraid and think the conditions are bad.

I am here today to assure you that we are doing a good job on Pediatrics. We are not full and we are not short on staff. We have wonderful nurses, some of our nurses have been here for many years. Our staff is stable and that makes us unique to a lot of other services in the hospital, because once our nurses come they don’t want to leave and they stay with us. That is a very good thing, so they are very experienced.

We have Pediatricians who are taking care of our Pediatric inpatients. Everyone is a Board Certified Pediatrician, we see only children and not adult patients. Anyone who is seventeen years or younger can be treated here on our unit. You don’t have to go to the emergency room to be admitted to the pediatric floor. If you go to your Pediatrician’s office or Urgent Care, wherever you go those people can call and contact us directly, and in many instances, we will just do a direct admission to the pediatrics unit from the office. So, it doesn’t mean that you have to go to the emergency room. We try to keep people out of the emergency room as much as possible.

We are open 24/7 for hospitalized children. We are following all Covid-19 safety measures and we are well equipped to keep everyone safe. Our unit is new, we just opened the unit about eighteen months ago and we have twenty-three single-patient rooms. Parents are encouraged to stay with their children here. Most people think that they have someone in the hospital that that person cannot have any company, but on the Pediatrics unit, the parents can come.

We have a lot of ancillary staff that is very helpful. We have a Child Life Specialist that is amazing. She comes by and helps with the family and answers your emotional needs, with things such as play therapy and activities. We also have music therapy that will be returning next month. We have pet therapy that will start back again in the coming month. Lactation services are available for any newborns that may have to come back to the floor. We have radiology, x-ray services, MRI, CAT scan, and physical therapists are
also available. So, we have a wide range of ancillary services. We don’t have an Intensive Care Unit, so when children are needing that kind of specialty care we transfer them to either Vanderbilt in Nashville or Le Bonheur in Memphis. We have great working relationships with both of those institutions. We try not to have any emergencies by recognizing those conditions early and getting them to the right place.

If you have any questions or comments, I would be happy to answer anything you have for us. If you are sick and need to come to the hospital, we don’t want you to stay away because you are afraid of coronavirus at the institution. We have been here and been around for a long time and will continue to do so. We are not busy at all. That is a good thing but it is still a little bit concerning, that maybe people are at home when they really shouldn’t be at home. That can turn into someone being sicker than they need to be. If  your child goes to your provider and your provider thinks that they need inpatient care, they can contact us through the hospital and you can avoid an emergency room visit, if you need to be admitted.