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Health Care UCSD and Children’s Hospital and Health Center reach an agreement to merge their pediatric programs

After more than a decade of talking, UCSD Medical Center and Children’s Hospital and Health Center reached an agreement to merge pediatric programs.

The agreement was signed June 21 at Children’s Hospital in Kearny Mesa.

The alliance will make Children’s Hospital the primary teaching site for medical students and provide access to UCSD’s 88 doctors, 77 interns, residents and fellows and top scientists.

Officials at both hospitals applauded the move.

“This historic agreement with the University of California, San Diego enables us to establish a fully collaborative enterprise excelling in patient care, teaching, research and community health,” said Blair Sadler, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital.

“This alliance will create the shortest bridge possible between medical research discoveries and the child’s bedside,” said Dr. Edward Holmes, UCSD Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences.

To date, Children’s Hospital and UCSD receive about $20 million in total research funding, Holmes said.

Given the “strengthened union” resulting from the merger, he anticipated research funding could rise by 15 percent every year.

There will be no layoffs resulting from the planned Aug. 1 closure of UCSD’s pediatric unit, Sadler said.

The 46 nurses and other support staff affected by the closure have been encouraged to apply for jobs at Children’s Hospital, he said.

Most of the pediatric staff, however, said they will stay at the UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, said Leslie Franz, a UCSD spokeswoman.

On Aug. 1, all children at the 19-bed pediatric unit at UCSD will be transferred to Children’s Hospital, said Sadler.

Sadler rejected concerns the move may not be in the best interest of all patients.

“No child that is at all seriously ill will have trouble getting to Children’s,” he said.

Children’s has a special van equipped like a mini-hospital to transport critically ill patients, Sadler said.

Children’s is also working with city officials to develop better bus routes from UCSD to Children’s Hospital, he said.

Under the agreement with Children’s, UCSD will retain its 40-bed neonatal intensive care unit, emergency services, burn unit and renal dialysis patients, Sadler said.

Pediatric cardiology, intensive care, endocrinology, oncology, infectious disease, allergy, primary care and general surgery will move to Children’s over time.

UCSD pediatricians and Children’s doctors, however, will be working more closely than ever, he said.

Dr. Michael Segall, president of the 100- member Children’s Specialists of San Diego, the majority medical group at Children’s, applauds the integration.

He said several UCSD doctors have recently joined his medical group and hopes others will follow.

In the past, doctors expressed concern over the division of specialty care among other problems.

“There have been some rivalries in the past,” Sadler said, adding, “What’s exciting about the future is that most of those rivalries have been put behind us.”

Still, questions remain.

There is the financing of the planned construction of a pediatric research facility on the Children’s Hospital campus.

Under the terms of the agreement, Children’s will continue to be financially responsible for available beds, buying equipment and other operating costs, Sadler said.

UCSD will share the cost for the new research building and the recruiting of faculty, scientists and medical personnel, he said.

Over the years several merger proposals have failed to happen.

In November, the UC Board of Regents and Children’s board of trustees approved a tentative agreement, which is similar to the final agreement, Sadler said.

Sadler and Holmes declined to comment on merger costs or savings resulting from the consolidation of the pediatric units.

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