Holy Cross Hospital opened its first-ever medical clinic dedicated to serving infants, children and teens June 20 at 1329 Gusdorf Road.
Jeffrey Gardner, director of Taos Professional Services for Holy Cross Hospital, hopes Taoseños will value Holy Cross Pediatrics for its direct relationship with the community hospital and its growing team of medical professionals, which he describes as the "premier clinicians in town."
Inside the new facility this week, Gardner spoke alongside Dr. Veronica Parker, a Texas native who relocated to Taos this year to helm medical services at the clinic, and Daniel Michaud, a pediatric nurse practitioner and graduate of the University of Colorado with experience in emergency medicine.
In coming months, Gardner will also hire a third person to assist in handling a patient base that's grown to about 20-25 patients a week in less than a month.
Parker said the clinic is designed to sit at the cross-section of inpatient care and clinical care. Bringing together pediatric services under one roof, she said, should enhance the overall quality of services offered to the Taos community.
"We cover two realms," said Parker. "There's been a pediatric presence in the hospital, but it's not been a unit or a department of itself."
Previously, the majority of pediatric services at Holy Cross Hospital were provided by locum tenen doctors and nurses (medical professionals that work at facilities on a limited, contract basis).
It's an arrangement that can make it difficult for families to develop long-term relationships with physicians and one that can also be costly for a medical practice to maintain. As Holy Cross bails out from its yearslong financial crisis, hiring on dedicated staff has been part of the strategy in more than one department at the hospital.
The new pediatric practice should also offer greater continuity of care for patients, who can expect to see familiar faces whenever they go in for a checkup or physical.
"Let's say you're born in the newborn nursery, and we're your doctor there," Parker offered as an example, "We'll also be able to follow you up lifelong, from being there at your delivery to being your baby's doctor or your teenager's doctor."
Michaud said patients at the clinic will also have special advantages, such as same-day appointments at the clinic. Because of the clinic's relationship with Holy Cross, families can also expect to receive services at the hospital faster than usual.
"If you come in here and you're very sick and you obviously need to be admitted to the hospital, we can send you over here to Holy Cross," Michaud said. "We can actually direct-admit from our clinic and not have to route you through the emergency department for a 4-6 hour wait and then finally get you admitted."
Holy Cross Pediatrics is equipped to offer a range of family services for children, from the infant stage through age 18.
Together, Parker and Michaud provide primary care, as well as more advanced acute care for more serious cases, along with standard immunizations, screenings and routine exams. Parker said she also can treat certain mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety and some learning disabilities.
The team will also offer preventative education when it comes to teen pregnancy and early-age drug abuse.
In instances that go beyond their scope of care, however, Parker is identifying local specialists that can extend their network of services.
"Los Angelitos is a developmental center in town that's very helpful for any children in our clinic that are showing signs of developmental delays, whether that's speech, fine motor or gross motor, like having difficulty throwing a ball," Parker said. "It's really nice having that available."
Parker also plans to utilize Children's Medical Services, a branch of the New Mexico Department of Health, in cases that require advanced treatment of pulmonary disorders, such as asthma.
In spite of the clinic's central location in Taos, Gardner said he and other hospital administrators are discussing how Taos County's outlying areas - Peñasco, Questa and Costilla, for example - can be reached.
"When we grow this practice, the next phase is going to be a lot of outreach," he said, "getting out into the communities around Taos. There are clinics that are there, but we may try to help supplement some of their pediatric care, with maybe one day a week or a half day a week."
For more information, the clinic can be reached at (575) 737-3415.