Mel Bower Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Shriners Hospitals for Children. Photo Marshall Gorby

Shriners moving burn unit from Cincy to Dayton Children’s

Advanced burn care for children is coming to Dayton, and the first patient could be treated the summer of 2020.

Shriners Hospitals for Children announced Wednesday that it is working on a plan with Dayton Children’s Hospital to close its Cincinnati site and move operations to Dayton, where it would operate as a hospital within a hospital.

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The demand for inpatient burn care has declined because of better fire prevention efforts and medical advancements that have led to people healing faster and returning home sooner. 

These health care trends meant Shriners needed to make a change, said Cincinnati Shriners Hospital Administrator Mark Shugarman.

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“These changes are necessary to ensure that our hospital can continue to provide the finest pediatric specialty care for the next 50 years,” Shugarman said.

Plans are not yet finalized, and officials did not have details about the number of jobs that will be at the new center. Shriners has 218 employees in Cincinnati.

Shriners would lease a space withing Dayton Children’s Hospital’s campus, using an area formerly home to the pediatric intensive care unit before it moved during the hospital’s main campus expansion and tower addition two years ago.

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“We all know that health care is changing at a tremendous pace. We have to rethink the many ways in which we deliver care and this is a perfect example of the forward thinking that will help keep amazing and expert specialty services available to kids that need them,” Dayton Children’s Hospital CEO Deb Feldman said.

Dayton Children’s can treat some burns but now refers the most serious cases to Shriners in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Shriners to close

The decision means the closure of one of four stand-alone hospitals in the Shriners network dedicated to pediatric burn care. Shriners has been a fixture in Cincinnati for 50 years, first opening in 1968 as the Shriners Burn Institute as part of what’s now University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

It moved to its current location in 1992, where it added services such as cleft lip and palate, specialty wound treatment, and plastic and reconstructive surgery.

The hospital is supported by the philanthropy of Shriners International and sometimes flew in children from other countries in need of treatment for severe burns.

Burn care is expensive, and Shriners makes care accessible by treating patients regardless of their ability to pay. For those who survive burns on more than 10 percent of their total body surface area, the average charge for treatment in the U.S. was $269,523, the American Burn Association reported in 2017.

But the hospital’s patient census has been declining, sometimes with the hospital half empty. Shriners credited the decline in burns in part to fire safety and prevention efforts that the organization spearheaded.

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As medicine advances, hospital stays for burns have also become shorter, and more patients can skip the overnight stay altogether and be treated as outpatients. During the 10-year period from 2008 through 2017, the American Burn Association said the average length of stay for women declined from 9.4 days to 7.3 days, while that for men went from 9.5 to 8.5 days. In 2000, the average stay for burns was closer to 11 days.

When asked why the hospital is coming to Dayton instead of having a similar deal with a Cincinnati hospital, Mel Bower, Shriners chief communications and marketing officer, said the health system had looked at all of its options.

“We did an exhaustive search to determine what was the best future path for Shriners Hospitals for Children in Cincinnati, and we determined with confidence and excitement that the very best path for us going forward was this new relationship with Dayton Children’s,” Bower said.

Dayton Children’s growth

Dayton Children’s is also in the midst of adding other services in addition to its plans with Shriners Hospital. The hospital is working with Kettering Health Network to move Kettering’s pediatric inpatient mental health services to Dayton Children’s, which will then allow Kettering to expand its adult services.

The hospital also recently opened a behavioral health crisis center for evaluating children with a mental health crisis.

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In January, the hospital announced it was starting a bone marrow transplant program, working with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. Hospital officials said at the time that this was a first for children in Dayton, who have previously been referred out for stem cell bone marrow transplants.

The hospital is getting close to opening a new center by its main campus to be called the Child Health Pavilion. It is scheduled for a May 20 opening event. The building at the corner of Valley Street and Stanley Avenue will house the hospital’s Center for Community Health and Advocacy as well as a few other services.

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