New and advanced children's hospitals are necessary, but expensive

New and advanced children's hospitals are necessary, but expensive

It is a challenging time in medicine, a time when emerging expensive personalized treatments are arising from genetics and immunotherapy laboratories around the country. Simultaneously as we struggle as a country to provide adequate coverage, choice and access for all — beginning with our children. Hospitals in particular are struggling to adjust, a story that isn’t told as often as a given individual’s quest for access to lifesaving treatments. 

Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals are often inadequate, and hospitals can no longer count on making up their profits with the payments of private insurers.

Hospitals in Medicaid expansion states have seen much less uncompensated care under the Affordable Care Act. At the same time hospitals remain concerned about the ACA’s decrease in supplemental payments to hospitals (disproportionate share hospital payments).


On top of this there has been a battle in Congress to cut funding to the important Children’s Health Insurance Program, which cost the federal government over $14 billion in 2016 but provides lifesaving funding to 9 million impoverished children through Medicaid and separate programs (funded jointly by states and the federal government).

It is in this climate of uncertainty and increasing health care costs that the new 68 bed Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital opened late last month at NYU Langone Health, spreading optimism and hope throughout the entire medical community in the particularly trying and hugely important arena of children’s health. 

It isn’t the private rooms or the large state-of-the-art “MyWall” system of entertainment in each room complete with menus, lighting and curtain control and record access that provides hope as much as it is the whole idea of a new home and focal point for children’s health at a time of emerging new treatments for congenital conditions, Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy and childhood cancers. Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital will be well integrated with the entire medical center including its research arm.

All of us who are parents share the prayer that our children will always be healthy. Parents assume a child’s good health up until the dreaded moment when he or she is no longer well. A loving parent can never be properly prepared for the suffering that ensues. Restoring a child’s health becomes a righteous and noble obsession. 

The work of art looming outside of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital expresses the optimistic sentiment of treating a child in a manner most children can relate to: a thirty-eight foot sculpture of a dog, Spot, balancing an actual taxi cab on his nose.

Most children I know are interested in either animals or cars or both — this striking work of art also expresses the delicate balance between life and technology, between animation and in-animation, the place where the world of science, art, and healing meet.

 At the same time that Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital was opening, U.S. News was releasing its yearly list of best hospitals. Three large children’s hospitals, Boston Children’s (404 beds), Cincinnati Children’s (629 beds) and Children’ Hospital of Philadelphia (546 beds), top the list this year as they did last year.  

Meanwhile, Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital recently opened a new building and Buffalo just opened its new children’s hospital late last year.

I attended medical school in Buffalo, and was molded by my experiences at the Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, which first opened in 1892 and had developed a deeply ingrained ritualistic culture by the time I got there. 

The philosophy of the best children’s hospitals is to treat young children as full human beings with the potential for many more years of healthy life. The first infant I treated struggling to be comfortable on a ventilator burned a disturbing image into my brain I will never forget. 

Pediatrics has its own set of careful rules and protocols that often don’t apply to the rest of medicine. Keep in mind that pediatrics requires different treatments, smaller doses of medications and a kind of precision and expertise that is best served in a highly skilled dedicated facility. 

Add Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital to the “A” list. “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” was a great short story by Hemingway, and it is also a place for children to go hoping to regain the health that youth gave them, disease took away, and the latest technology hopes to bring back.

Marc Siegel M.D. is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Health. He is a Fox News medical correspondent.