Beginning Monday, many Eastern Kentucky children who are seriously ill won’t have to travel to Lexington for care.
Pikeville Medical Center is opening the Drs. R.V. and Jyothi Mettu Children’s Hospital, the first in the region, to provide inpatient and outpatient pediatric health care at its 13,400-square-foot facility.
Prior to the children’s hospital opening, families with their sick kids would travel to Kentucky Children’s Hospital in Lexington or Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville. Mettu Children’s Hospital will be able to care for children from birth to age 18 in Eastern Kentucky and its border state communities in Southwestern Virginia and Southern West Virginia.
Donovan Blackburn, Pikeville Medical Center president and CEO, said finding a way to serve the region’s children became a top priority years ago.
“Our kids have to travel, it’s not right, it’s not fair,” Blackburn said. “As the largest single regional institution, we had to address that.”
Prior to the children’s hospital opening, a child with appendicitis or a heart murmur would likely be referred to a specialist in Lexington.
“A child will be able to see its extended family for support now during an overnight stay,” Blackburn said. “A child will have access to urgent care instead of having delayed care when care is needed. A child will feel like they matter during some of their scariest times because of today.”
Pikeville Medical Center has added services to keep pediatric care at home over the past couple of years. It opened the Appalachian Valley Autism Center in Pikeville and a satellite location in Floyd County. The autism center is the region’s first and only. PMC also constructed a pediatric wing in its emergency department. The hospital also doubled its neonatal intensive unit from eight beds to 16 beds.
“Having or being a child with a significant illness is difficult in the best of circumstances,” Dr. Aaron Crum, assistant CEO and chief medical officer, said in a video message at a ribbon cutting event Thursday. “Pikeville Medical Center’s goal is to provide advanced pediatric specialty care right here at home.”
Gov. Andy Beshear said Eastern Kentuckians “will not be deprived of health care for our most important patients.”
The Mettu Children’s Hospital began construction in August 2020 on the second floor of Pikeville Medical Center. In 2019, Pikeville Medical Center received an Abandoned Mine Lands Pilot Program grant for $4.78 million and an Appalachian Regional Commission grant of $1.5 million to support the project.
“ARC is proud to have provided a grant through our POWER Program that was a significant piece of the puzzle in helping this project come to fruition,” ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin said in a statement. “This new opportunity for pediatric care in Eastern Kentucky will provide much needed relief for families, many of whom will no longer have to worry about leaving our region in order to receive quality healthcare for their children.”
Pikeville Medical Center also received a $1.5 million donation from Pikeville Drs. R.V. and Jyothi Mettu. Jyothi Mettu has been a pediatrician in the region for almost 30 years.
The children’s hospital inpatient services will consist of a family-friendly waiting room, 10 private patient rooms and a nourishment room. The outpatient facilities will have separate sick and well waiting rooms, check-in and registration area, 13 exam rooms, a medication room and a nurse’s station.
Blackburn said some children will have to travel outside of the region for medical care, but a large majority can be treated at the children’s hospital.