For the Children

Rendering of New Children’s Emergency Department

Even with a struggling economy, the people of Marion County have stepped up in a big way to provide Munroe Regional Medical Center with enough funds to construct and open Ocala’s first children’s emergency department.

Hundreds of lights emit a soft twinkle from the trees above. Comfortable park benches are scattered about. Below, colorful fish appear to swim underfoot. In the distance, a playful monkey swings from a tree. No, this isn’t the newest exhibit at a local theme park, it’s Ocala’s much-needed and much-anticipated children’s emergency department at Munroe Regional Medical Center. Scheduled to open this August, the children’s ED is unlike any other in the area and is replacing the current Palmer/Klein Children’s Express location directly across the street from Munroe’s emergency department.

There is no more helpless a feeling than that of a parent whose child is sick or injured and experiencing an emergency. With a head full of concerns and just as many questions, we rely on the doctors and nurses to treat our kids and make them well again. And the dedicated professionals at Munroe Regional Medical Center have been treating our little ones with compassion and patience for more than a century.

Children’s Express originally opened on the second floor of the hospital in 1986, seeing children for a variety of medical emergencies.

“As the department grew and the pediatricians came to trust our services, we outgrew our second floor location,” says Vickie Sullivan, director of emergency services. “We moved to the current location across the street from the emergency department, and again, we found the need to expand. From an efficiency standpoint, the current location just isn’t working. We can draw basic labs, but a tech has to walk it across the street to get results. If a CAT scan is needed for a child, we have to transport them across the street. We needed to have an all-inclusive facility within our current emergency department to care for the kids.”

Paul Clark, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Munroe, agrees.

“We are going from a walk-in clinic to a true children’s emergency department,” says Paul. “A quarter of all our emergency department patients are children ages 0-17—that’s roughly 25,000 patients a year. That’s a significant number. The need to treat these children in a designated area has morphed into what we have today: Marion County’s first child-specific emergency department.Unlike the current Children’s Express location, which is open 12 hours each day, the new children’s ED will be an around-the-clock endeavor.

“We needed the pediatric expertise to be available for more than just 12 hours,” says Pam Michell, chief nursing officer. “We are raising the quality of care.”

During peak hours between 11am to 11pm in the children’s ED, there will be board-certified physicians, plus either a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant available and on-site.

“There will also be three certified pediatric care nurses, a tech and a radiology tech during peak hours,” says Vickie.

With nine exam rooms (each with its own television to keep your little one entertained), a triage area, a procedure room, radiology room and a friendly, expanded waiting area, there is plenty of space to care for our local children. But getting to this point was no easy task. As a matter of fact, 13 different hospital departments were relocated to make space for the children’s ED

Rendering of New Children’s Emergency Department

Patient safety, efficiency and turn-around time all led to the planning and development of the new children’s ED Two years in the making, the $2 million project was funded solely by community donations and fundraising efforts put forth through the Munroe Regional Medical Center Foundation. Not only that, construction was completed nearly six months ahead of schedule.

“We have been very excited about this project,” says Beth McCall, executive director of the Munroe Foundation. “Even with the struggling economy, we know that when you mention children, people step up to help.”

And businesses and individuals did step up—in a big way. There were three signature gifts of $100,000 or more, including $100,000 from the Jett Travolta Foundation, $125,000 from Signature Brands and a $250,000 anonymous donation.

“These gifts, along with countless others, all came together to help us reach our goal and provide a unique, one-of-a-kind emergency department for the area’s children,” says Beth.

And unique it is. The land and water theme was chosen to create a serene, relaxing, kid-friendly environment. One that’s perfect for all ages, from newborns to teens.

“We did site visits to children’s emergency departments all over the country to make sure we chose properly,” says Pam. “I think the public will be blown away by the result.”

“This is a dedicated, secure, safe atmosphere in which to take care of a very precious population,” adds Paul.

For Vickie, who has more than 20 years of nursing experience, it’s a venture that’s very close to her heart.

“I have never been more excited about a project,” she says. “The staff all felt the need to move forward with this, and we all have a passion for caring for children.”

And from a nursing standpoint, the care provided to the community won’t be limited to prescribing medicines and sewing lacerations in the ED.

“Our staff is very engaged,” Vickie says. “We have a heart for community education, and raising public awareness is part of our goal. From going into schools to teach hygiene and safety to educating parents and providing them with plenty of literature and teaching materials for and about their children, we believe knowledge is power for parents and we can educate them both bedside and out in the community.”

MRMC’s Children’s Emergency Department

Located within the main emergency department on the 1st floor of MRMC

1500 SW 1st Avenue, Ocala

Wheelchair Bear © C.Byatt-Norman; 3 Kids © Dmitriy Shironosov; Bear Holding Head © Valentyn Volkov /

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