RICHLAND -- Piece by piece, the Tri-Cities is acquiring medical services that allow people to get care close to home instead of traveling to Seattle or Spokane.
The latest is a new pediatric surgery service offered by Seattle Children's Hospital in partnership with Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.
Seattle Children's already has a clinic in Richland that has brought a variety of pediatric specialists to the Tri-Cities, but children and their families have had to travel for most surgeries.
The new service, which starts operating in late January, will offer outpatient surgeries such as hernia or cleft palate repairs, or correction of a condition common among young boys in which one of the testicles hasn't fully descended into the scrotum.
"These are generally surgeries which would be considered relatively low complexity," said Dr. Sanford Melzer, senior vice president of strategic planning and business development for Seattle Children's.
But they also are ones that otherwise wouldn't be done in the Tri-Cities, he said.
"The services that we're doing are truly an add-on," Melzer said. "We're looking at cases that would have to leave the community."
Some pediatric surgeries already are available at Kadlec, but they are performed by surgeons who typically practice on adults and not by ones who specialize in children, said Natalie Jones, Kadlec's administrative director of perioperative and maternal and child services.
Pediatric patients generally are between ages 2 and 18.
The new service will bring six surgeons on a bimonthly rotation offering general pediatric surgery, and urology, plastics, and ear, nose and throat specialties.
The surgeons will spend one day doing surgeries, and the following day visiting with patients for post-operative check-ups to give patients consistency of care, Jones said.
"What this is going to do is broaden our scope," she said.
Most patients will be ones referred by specialists at Seattle Children's Richland clinic, although some cases MIGHT be referred by other doctors in the community.
Kadlec President Lane Savitch said the partnership involves Seattle Children providing the surgeons while Kadlec provides the operating space, equipment and support staff such as nurses, anesthesiologists and surgical technicians.
That allows Kadlec to expand into a medical practice area that wouldn't otherwise have enough volume to justify the costs if Kadlec set up a practice on its own, he said.
"We're very excited about this new addition to care that's available in the community," Savitch said. "It is well-documented that recovery is always faster if you're close to home and have family available. We think it's important to keep as much of that care close to home as much as possible."
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org