You may find it surprising to learn that the number of children 17 and under in the Coachella Valley exceeds the number of adults 65 and over.1 While schools and services are being built to support this growing demographic, our greatest need may be in medical care–especially in the east valley where the ratio of patients to doctors is an astonishing 8,407 to 1.2
As such, the community is graciously welcoming the Loma Linda Children’s Health (LLUCH) which opened in Indio in March. The stunning facility is a beacon of light that currently offers children (both with and without insurance) primary well care services, sick care visits, and sub-specialty support.
“There are great pediatricians here in the valley providing primary care and we support that,” says Loma Linda University Children’s Health Division Chief, General Pediatrics Alexandra Clark, MD. “We are not looking to take children away from others, but to fill the need that is not currently being met,” she says, noting the large gap in sub-specialty pediatric care for which thousands of children currently travel to Loma Linda. “Our goal is to help limit that number by bringing those specialists here for routine follow up visits with, say, their rheumatologist, neurologist or endocrinologist.”
They work closely with other hospitals and pediatric services in the valley and refer children as needed. While they see patients with and without insurance, their primary goal is to assess whether a child meets the criteria to get insurance and to help the family navigate that system.
The clinic has thirteen rooms with build-out to 20 and offers full body exams, well and sick visits, breathing treatments for asthma exacerbation, testing for lead levels and anemia, EKG, and more. Their “well care” services for kids of all ages include complete physicals, routine vision, hearing, developmental screenings and risk factors for autism, as well as referrals for families who may need other community services. Dental services are scheduled to open later this year, and physicians and sub-specialties will be added as demand increases.
The clinic has already brought in specialists to see existing LLUCH-Loma Linda patients for follow up appointments and is eager to grow that aspect of service. While bringing gastrointestinal, endocrinology, allergy, rheumatology and other specialties is viable, oncology is challenging as they cannot do chemotherapy onsite; however, they can draw labs and check on local patients when they are sick. Electronic medical records help streamline continuity of care for even their most chronic patients.
Plans for growth also include expanded hours, urgent care services, additional labs, IVs for dehydration, simple CBC for infection and hemoglobin, and radiology for broken bones and factures. Their ultimate goal is telehealth for qualifying cases to increase efficiency. “It doesn’t make sense for all visits, but certainly does for reviewing labs or discussing next steps, saving both families and doctors two hours on the road.”
Rooms are already prepped with computers for visual communication and technology that allows an LVN or PA to listen to the child’s heart or perform an ultrasound while the practitioner at Loma Linda watches and listens along.
The beautiful building which was designed with wellness in mind has many large windows and natural light. The entrance atrium has a “Jewel Box” design which throws colors across the room with the sun’s reflection and will be used for educational programs on nutrition, exercise and wellness. Scooter’s Bottomless Bookshelf is a gift from donors that ensures every child who visits selects a book to take home. The hospital has ample donations of books in both English and Spanish.
“There is a lot of opportunity for growth and we are working to ensure sustainability so we are here for the community long-term,” adds Clark.
Loma Linda University Children’s Health–Indio is currently open Monday through Thursday from 8a.m.–5p.m., Friday 8a.m.–4p.m., and Sunday 8:30a.m.–3p.m. (for sick visits or well care without an appointment). They currently accept many major insurance plans including IEHP and don’t turn away children without insurance.
For more information visit www.lluch.org/indio.org or call (760) 477.0733
References: 1) HARC’s Coachella Valley Community Health Survey, 2016 Executive Report; 2) 2010 Coachella Valley Healthcare Initiative.