Published on November 23, 2015

Around-the-clock pediatric care for Cape CodAround-the-clock pediatric care for Cape Cod

The soon-to-be-mother was suffering shooting pains, and her placenta was tearing. She was rushed into surgery for an emergency C-section, four weeks ahead of her scheduled due date.

As doctors and nurses gently removed the infant girl, she began gasping for breath. She had no heart rate. They summoned Sonia Chaudhry, MD, one of Cape Cod Hospital’s specialized pediatric hospitalists.

Arriving quickly, Dr. Chaudhry used a hand-held mask, call an Ambu Bag, to ventilate the infant. Then she carefully inserted a tube into the child’s lungs. A specialized intravenous line placed through the child’s umbilical cord administered critical antibiotics.

Only hours old, and weighing less than 5 pounds, the infant – still fighting for her life – was placed in an incubator and monitored by Dr. Chaudry. Once stabilized, she was rushed by ambulance to the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, to receive around-the-clock neonatal care.

Dr. Chaudhry works at Tufts, but it was no coincidence she was at Cape Cod Hospital that day. She is one of six Tufts pediatricians assigned fulltime to Cape Cod under a new partnership between the two institutions.

The doctors work exclusively in the hospital, caring for infants born prematurely to teens up to 18 – all of whom require hospital care for issues ranging from infectious illnesses to respiratory conditions, and from chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma to influenza or dehydration.

In the past, when a child required specialized treatment, they would be sent to Tufts, whose neonatal intensive care unit represents the leading edge in pediatric care worldwide. But the new partnership with Tufts, launched Oct. 1, takes that care to a much higher level, Dr. Chaudhry said.

“Cape Cod Hospital always has provided a very high level of pediatric care, but the new Tufts partnership means that children and their families on Cape Cod can get Boston quality care, but not in Boston,” explained Dr Chaudhry, who recently moved fulltime to the Cape.

Teresa J. Reid, MD, another Tufts pediatric hospitalist, was on hand when a teenager was rushed to the Cape Cod emergency center in danger of dying from an uncontrolled racing heart.

At that very moment, Dr. Reid was in one of Cape Cod Hospital’s maternity rooms supervising a birth. She still picked up the call from the emergency room. In the next few minutes, she was living and working in two worlds simultaneously.

Dr. Reid got a quick rundown on the young person’s condition, then called a counterpart at Tufts. Within minutes, the Tufts’ pediatric team was on conference with Cape Cod Hospital’s emergency room staff.

Together, they stabilized the teen’s heart, while Dr. Reid returned to the maternity room, where her patient gave birth to a healthy child.

Hospitalists like Drs. Chaudhry and Reid are there from admission to treatment and surgery all the way to discharge and follow up. They work with pediatricians, family practitioners, general surgeons and subspecialty physicians in caring for children across the Cape, Dr. Reid said.

“This is so important because families don’t want to travel constantly to Boston from the Cape when their child needs treatment or hospitalization,” she said. “That creates incredible stress, affects home and work life and has a significant financial impact.”

“We all are part of a team,” Dr. Reid said. “We work and train together. We can communicate clearly and consistently during crises—often keeping the child right on the Cape,” she said. “In those cases when the child must go to Tufts, we continue to monitor the case, and are ready for follow-up care upon his or her return, not only among ourselves, but also with the family’s pediatrician or family doctor.”

Cape Cod Healthcare has maintained an informal working relationship with Tufts since 2010, which led to the formal partnership this fall. Similar agreements are in place at four other community hospitals in the Boston area, Dr. Reid said.

“Our philosophy is to keep community patients in the community as much as possible,” she said.

Drs. Reid and Chaudhry have been practicing pediatricians, but they gravitated to the hospitalist role because of their desire to provide round-the-clock specialized care for children.

“The beauty of the hospitalist program is care 24/7, 365 days a year,” said Dr. Chaudhry. “It’s so important to have a pediatrician at the hospital – from the birthing center to the emergency room.”