Critical care for kids is much closer to home than you think

May 3, 2021

By Jorge Sainz, MD, FAAP

In tense situations with a critically sick or injured child, no parent or family member should face the prospect of a long drive for care and the stress of knowing they may not be near their loved one during their greatest time of need. As an experienced critical care and general pediatric doctor who practices at a specialty clinic in El Paso, I often hear Southern New Mexico parents say that they assume their child would have to be transferred to El Paso or Albuquerque to receive critical services.

But much of this same high quality care is available so much closer to home. It’s accessible right here in Las Cruces at Memorial Medical Center, where I currently serve as Medical Director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Our team is in the business of taking care of and healing sick and injured children.

Memorial not only has the lone PICU in Southern New Mexico, but also has the region’s only pediatric transport team – which essentially operates as a critical care unit on wheels.

What does this mean for children and their families? It means that children can be transferred to and receive advanced care at Memorial without leaving their community. In fact, we transfer out less than 1 percent of our patients from our PICU. We’re able to take on complex medical issues, keeping kids close to home and reducing travel time and other stressors for parents and families.

For our youngest, smaller and most vulnerable children, Memorial’s Level 3 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) provides an advanced level of care for premature or sick babies. Our NICU offers a supportive, healing and compassionate environment to help our infant patients and their families achieve the best possible outcomes. Memorial’s NICU offers the highest level of care for newborns in Southern New Mexico.

When a baby is born outside of Las Cruces and requires a higher level of care, we can travel to them with our dedicated Transit Team ambulance that has neonatal equipment including an isolette and ventilator. A specially trained team of nurses and respiratory therapists will provide care during the transport and in the NICU.

Our Transport Team is led by Edward Pacheco, a trained respiratory therapist with a master’s degree in Business Administration and a bachelor’s in Health Administration. He previously worked at Las Palmas Medical Center and El Paso Children’s Hospital. MMC’s 24/7 Transport Team departs Memorial within just minutes of activation and is comprised of registered nurses and respiratory therapists who specialize in neonatal and pediatric care.

The specially equipped ambulance transfers patients from both emergency rooms and clinics throughout our region back to the hospital, showing, again, that critical care for kids is much closer to home than you might think.

Jorge Sainz, MD, FAAP, is the Medical Director of Memorial Medical Center’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Dr. Sainz is Board-certified in general pediatrics and pediatric critical care medicine by the American Board of Pediatrics.