Spokane Journal of Business

Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital commits to improvements

Providence administrators to build on five-year plan

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Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital opened as its own entity on Spokane’s South Hill in 2003, and in almost two decades, the facility connected to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center has grown its footprint and expanded its programs and services to improve pediatric care, says chief administrative officer Dr. Mike Barsotti.

Millions of dollars in capital improvements have been invested in the children’s hospital to meet the needs of the community, including $3.5 million raised in the last 18 months from partners of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Barsotti says.

Currently the children’s hospital is working to replace pediatric dialysis machines in the nephrology department that will help support kidney health and treat kidney failure from the youngest patients through to adulthood, he says.

The dialysis machines were purchased earlier this year for an amount he declines to disclose after a contract expired with an outside firm that previously handled the pediatric dialysis work.

“With help from the Providence Inland Northwest Foundation and donations from people across the city, we were able to purchase all new machines,” Barsotti says. “We paid for and ordered them over a month ago and they are beginning to arrive at the hospital now.”

The revamped dialysis unit won’t take long to begin operating again, he says. “It’s not so much getting the machines up and running but making sure that our staff… knows how to use them, and more importantly to me, understands how to troubleshoot when things aren’t going right.”

The children’s health care organization also has a five-year plan to prepare for future improvements and services as medicine evolves and community health care needs change, he says.

“The children’s hospital in Spokane is more than just a physical plant on the South Hill,” says Barsotti. “We’re always looking to the future, and we’re beginning to work on our five-year strategy to make sure it aligns with what we see the needs of the city are.”

An example of Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital addressing the community’s needs is the $18.6 million expansion and remodel in 2011, which enlarged the emergency room, with Bouten Construction Co., of Spokane, as the general contractor.

The hospital created another emergency room entrance and separated the waiting room and patient rooms for children into its own space so that kids weren’t in the mix of adults in the emergency room, Barsotti says.

More recently, in 2019, the organization remodeled its general pediatrics unit for about $1 million. The project updated common areas, added a new nursing station to ensure quicker patient response times, and added portable blood pressure machines throughout the unit, according to a report by the Washington state Hospital Association.

Minor capital improvement projects also are ongoing at the facility, such as an elevator modernization project and a variety of mechanical, plumbing, and electrical updates, according to permits on file with the city of Spokane.

“We’re always looking to see where our gaps are, whether its equipment, instruments, or whether it’s a type of subspecialty, Barsotti says. “Right now, hospitalized medicine is in an unprecedented time period financially. We’re doing everything we can for the children … but not a lot of capital expansion is going on because of capital constraint.”

Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital also has invested in the programs and services offered, which includes increasing, not just the number of specialists, but the types of specialists. “Today we have about 31 different subspecialty types,” he adds.

Funding for renovations, including funding for the dialysis machine upgrades, is typically provided in part by the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the Providence Inland Northwest Foundation organizations.

“We’re a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, and there’s ongoing fundraising specifically for Sacred Heart throughout the year. Those funds come in without any earmarking except that they have to be used within the children’s hospital for children,” says Barsotti. “It was philanthropy that helped fund the expansion for the children’s emergency room as well.”

Before the children’s hospital was built, Sacred Heart Medical Center offered youth health care within a few small pediatric care departments, he says.

A group of pediatricians who met regularly on Saturday mornings discussed the need for the development of a facility focused on children’s health care in Spokane.

“It’s actually very important that we take care of disease processes, but how we take care of disease processes and the framework around that changes within a children’s hospital.”

Along with facility and program improvements, maximum capacity has grown to 160 beds and a patient’s length of stay has decreased, which means the children’s hospital is able to treat more patients and can also take care of sicker kids, says Barsotti.

To meet future health care needs in the community, hospital medical care will focus on enhancing and expanding outpatient services, he says.

Barsotti claims that patients will benefit if services are provided both within and outside of the physical hospital because, “Instead of looking just at children’s hospitals as a physical plant with beds in it, we want to look at children’s needs wherever they intersect with Providence. … That whole philosophy is being integrated into the care we’re delivering.”

In the immediate future, Barsotti says he anticipates health care will be focused on another surge in COVID-19 infections, although the hospital’s priorities are still focused on delivering child-centric care in a family-friendly way.

Barsotti says, “We have a children’s play therapist come to distract children during the procedures. We have music therapists come. We have playrooms. We have phlebotomists that are specifically trained to deal only with kids. The entire focus of the children’s hospital is offering care in a child friendly way, and not just for the children, but it’s also family friendly.”

He says the hospital’s five-year plan involves Providence working with city of Spokane, Spokane County, and leadership in rural areas of the Inland Northwest to understand the care and needs of families in the entire region it serves.

“Our reach is regional because we take care of kids in the Tri-Cities, in Walla Walla.” Barsotti says. “We take care of kids from North Idaho and eastern Montana.” 

Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital is part of a large health care system that covers seven states and only has two children’s hospitals, he says.

Barsotti joined Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in 1998 as a neonatologist, followed by a promotion to medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit in 2000, he says. He left to work at a children’s hospital in California in 2013 and returned to Spokane to join the children’s hospital administrative medicine team three years later.

Barsotti says his work as chief administrative officer involves managing the flow of care at the hospital, fostering collaborative health care teams, and ensuring quality care is provided to patients in a financially responsible way.

In his role, he says he collaborates with leaders at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital when the organizations meet and discuss solutions to shared problems.

“For example,” he says, “Most recently we’ve been talking about how to address the behavioral health crisis within the state of Washington.”

Barsotti says Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital is a jewel of the city.

“Our goal is to make kids healthy emotionally and physically. Not every community has a children’s hospital and it’s a pretty large investment that Providence made into the children of Spokane and Eastern Washington. This is a very special place where people come on their worst days to be guided through some of the worst things they could ever imagine to get out to a brighter future.”

Erica Bullock
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Reporter Erica Bullock has worked at the Journal since 2019 and covers real estate and construction. She is a craft beer enthusiast, who loves to garden and go camping with friends.

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