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Texas Children’s Hospital announces plans for new, state-of-the-art special isolation unit

As part of the hospital’s long-term vision to care for children with the most serious and complex medical conditions, Texas Children’s Hospital announces its plan to build an eight-bed special isolation unit at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. This unit will be specifically for children with highly contagious infectious diseases, such as pandemic influenza, enterovirus D68, Ebola, and many others. Additionally, Texas Children’s has been designated by the State of Texas as a pediatric Ebola treatment center following a recent visit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Special isolation unit

Currently, only four patient biocontainment units, which are specialized facilities equipped and staffed to care for patients with contagious infectious diseases, exist in the entire country.

“We will build a state-of-the-art isolation unit designed and staffed to provide the highest quality care and treatment for infants and children with serious or life- threatening infectious diseases of public health significance, always with the greatest possible margin of safety,” says Dr. Mark W. Kline, physician-in-chief at Texas Children’s and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “We believe this will be an indispensable resource to our local community, Texas and the nation.”

In fact, Texas Children’s is a quaternary referral hospital often serving as a “court of last resort” for children with incredibly complex or life-threatening medical conditions, including infectious diseases.

This new special isolation unit at Texas Children’s will incorporate all of the latest scientific and technological approaches to biocontainment, including negative air pressure, laminar air flow, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration, separate ventilation, anterooms, biosafety cabinets, a point-of-care laboratory, special security access, autoclaves and incinerators. There will be two levels of protection from airborne particles, as well as a comprehensive waste management plan, among other safety features.

The unit will be fully equipped to care for any infant or child with a serious communicable disease, with all of the measures available to assure safety of the health care team, other patients and their families. A point-of-care biosafety level 3 laboratory will enable the care team to monitor the progress of patients and perform rapid detection methods to identify unusual pathogens. Housed at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, the unit is anticipated to have capacity for eight patients, all in private rooms.

Texas Children’s has a number of the nation’s leading clinicians on the ground ready to help. The hospital is home to Baylor’s Department of Pediatrics, the largest in the nation, with more than 1,000 pediatricians, pediatric subspecialists and pediatric scientists. The specialized unit will be led by Dr. Gordon Schutze, who will serve as medical director, as well as Dr. Judith Campbell and Dr. Amy Arrington who will be the unit’s associate medical directors. It will be staffed by an elite team of experienced critical care and infectious disease nurses and physicians, all of whom will have successfully completed an intensive advanced certification course and practicum in infection control, hospital epidemiology and management of infectious diseases in the critical care setting. The staff will maintain their certification through participation in ongoing educational activities.

“We are working with the CDC to design, build, equip and staff this unit,” Kline adds. The new unit will be operational within nine months and cost approximately $16 million to build.

“I could not be more impressed with Texas Children’s desire to run towards issues of critical importance to the health and well- being of the children of Texas and our nation,” said Dr. Brett Giroir, director of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response and chief executive officer of the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Caring for potential Ebola patients

Since the summer, Texas Children’s has been implementing a detailed plan to identify, isolate and treat suspected cases of Ebola, if necessary. As a result, following a visit from the CDC, the State of Texas designated Texas Children’s as a pediatric Ebola treatment center. As part of the hospital’s preparation, specific protocols were developed outlining steps staff would take if and when a patient with Ebola symptoms arrived at a Texas Children’s facility. Additionally, in order to decrease the risk of exposure and provide the complex care required, the hospital identified specific areas and units responsible for caring for any patient with Ebola. The health care workers in those areas have received intense, ongoing training and simulation to help them prepare.

“We are honored to partner with the State of Texas to provide the highest quality care to infants and children with Ebola and other highly contagious infectious diseases,” Kline says of the announcement. “Texas Children’s Hospital specializes in the medical care and treatment of infants and children with the most complex and serious health problems. The challenge of serious infectious diseases is one we accept and confront willingly.”