The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

Evolving pediatric care needs in community-based settings

Evolving pediatric care needs in community-based settings

WellSpan's longstanding commitment to providing quality children's health care is at the core of our mission and stretches across all communities we serve.

The evolution of pediatric care in our communities, as well as across the country, has placed a significant emphasis on preventative pediatric care and decreasing the need for hospitalizations. Across our system of care, comprehensive, state-of-the-art primary, specialty, outpatient, surgical, and urgent care options locally – for adults and children – provide high-quality care. In addition, WellSpan's acute-care hospitals have been nationally recognized for the high quality and safe care of patients.

Today, more than ever, pediatric care efforts focus on literacy and early childhood development; on ensuring routine care for every child; on promoting infant and child safety; and on enhancing care options and access for children with special health care needs, including behavioral health. 

WellSpan recently demonstrated the health system's commitment to the children of South Central Pennsylvania with the 2023 launch of the Spotlight on Children's Health initiative.

"The Spotlight on Children's Health initiative aims to help ensure all children – regardless of race or ethnicity, regardless of zip code or county in which they were born – develop in safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments," said Dr. Christopher Russo, director of pediatrics, women and children services, and medical director for quality and innovation at WellSpan Health.

"By championing the physical, emotional, intellectual, and developmental needs of children from birth to 6 years old, we will be able to break the cycles of disadvantage. By nurturing the whole child from a young age and working with families, we will make a transformational impact and improve the health and wellness of the children in the communities we serve." 

But we know that no matter what steps and programs we put in place, eliminating the need for trips to the hospital, or avoiding a child's serious illness isn't always possible. Today, when a seriously ill or sick child needs to be admitted to a hospital, they likely need expert care that is provided best by specialists in a particular area of medicine. 

Our Commitment in Franklin County 

For over 125 years, WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital has served as Franklin County's cornerstone for providing compassionate and high-quality health care for all. Today, just like when we started, the team of caring clinical experts have a shared goal and commitment of providing exceptional health care to our friends and neighbors. This commitment extends to ensuring the highest quality care and timely support for our most vulnerable children. 

In late December 2023, Keystone Pediatrics made the decision that their physicians will no longer be able to care for patients admitted to the inpatient pediatric unit or in the emergency department at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital.

This decision enables the physicians and advanced practice providers with Keystone Pediatrics to focus on providing quality and timely primary care for children in their outpatient facilities.

"The decision of Keystone Pediatrics relates to the present-day realities of pediatric inpatient care. Today, fewer children are admitted to acute care hospitals and those children who are admitted typically need and deserve advanced medical care available only at larger hospitals which offer specialized pediatric services," says Dr. Michael Colli, chief medical officer, Keystone Health and medical director, Keystone Pediatrics.

"With this change, WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital remains committed to providing clinical excellence for care needs of our most vulnerable children through our continuum of pediatric care in our communities – including WellSpan family medicine practices, urgent care locations, and pediatric practice locations with our partner, Keystone Pediatrics, as part of our network of care," says Dr. Stephen Flack, medical director of primary care, WellSpan Health, and physician with WellSpan Family Medicine – Philadelphia Avenue.

In this interim period, WellSpan has developed a comprehensive plan to care for as many children as possible at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital. 

Keystone Pediatrics physicians will continue to care for newborns at the hospital who will be followed at their office after discharge. WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital physicians will care for pediatric patients in the emergency department as well as provide pediatric surgical, orthopedic and Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) care in the hospital. This includes care of illnesses such as dehydration, acute asthma exacerbation, broken bones, and croup. This is in addition to caring for newborns in the hospital's Level II NICU, a facility fully equipped and prepared to deliver babies as early as 32 weeks and treatment of mothers with unexpected medical complications. 

The neonatology team at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital will admit and care for infants under 3 months of age without a respiratory illness diagnosis. This will allow some families with young infants to remain at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital and receive expert care.  All pediatric patients, whether in the Emergency Department or admitted to the hospital, will be supported by expert pediatric hospitalist team located at WellSpan York Hospital.

It is only when these pediatric patients would require a higher level of care than is available at either WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital or at WellSpan York Hospital that they may be transferred to another facility. But rest assured that multiple levels of pediatric care will continue to be offered at the hospital.

When pediatric volumes are low, our pediatric nurses will be available to work in other areas of the hospital so that they may retain their regulatory standing and full employment. In doing so they can now care for other patients in other areas of the hospital. 

Our Continuum of Pediatric Care 

"Our focus over the past decade has been to improve the coordination of primary care for all our patients before they have a need to be hospitalized.  This includes our efforts for how we care for children. By successfully building patient centered medical homes, our care teams are keeping children healthier and are more successfully managing those with chronic conditions than ever before," says Dr. Flack.

As part of WellSpan's commitment to transforming the health of the communities while educating the next generation of providers, we are expanding our medical residency programs across the regions we serve in South Central Pennsylvania – starting with WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital's recent approval to launch a family medicine residency program. The Franklin County-based program is set to welcome its first medical residents in 2025, with medical residents to participate in clinical rotations with Keystone Health physicians and providers at both WellSpan Health and Keystone Health care locations.

Learn more about our commitment to caring for children at Wellspan Chambersburg Hospital.