Angela Ward (Courtesy Photo)

Children will get inpatient hospital care in Rio Rancho for the first time next month.

On Oct. 1, Presbyterian Rust Medical Center will open a 12-bed general pediatric unit for children and youth up to 18 years old. Children who come to the Rust emergency room and need to be admitted but don’t need specialty care will be able to stay near their homes instead of being transferred.

“We’ll take a look at each patient’s needs individually and determine where we can provide the best care for that individual,” said Presbyterian Children’s Program Medical Director Dr. John Pederson.

Pediatricians will for the first time be available to consult in person, instead of over the phone, with emergency department staff at Rust, as well.

“It’s a huge benefit to the community to be able to have that consultation in the ED,” said Presbyterian Rust Chief Executive Angela Ward.

Ward said the pediatrics unit has created about 10 jobs, with those employees in training.

It will be in a previously underused section of the third floor. A lounge area will be remodeled to become a play room.

The patient rooms and beds were already there, built with a universal design allowing them to be used for a variety of care, Ward said. The hospital will just need to bring in equipment for small children.

Presbyterian spokeswoman Alyssa Armijo said the unit was part of the expansion plan that involves a second tower at Rust. The hospital spent $150,000 on supplies to prepare the unit.

Pederson said keeping children who don’t need to see a specialist in Rio Rancho will free up beds at Presbyterian Hospital in downtown Albuquerque and allow expansion of specialty care there. Now, sometimes all pediatric beds at Presbyterian downtown are full and the hospital has to decline admission of new pediatric patients.

Pederson said his sister who needed specialty care that wasn’t available in the state, so he understands what families go through in such situations.

“Certainly part of our mission through the children’s program is to bring more services to the community that haven’t been available in the past,” he said.

He said Presbyterian Healthcare Services leaders knew they would eventually offer pediatric inpatient services at Rust because of the number of young families in Rio Rancho and on Albuquerque’s West Side. Data on the number of children brought to Rust and sent elsewhere for care shows providing the service in Rio Rancho is now sustainable, he added.

Ward said the volume of patients in the Rust emergency department, including children needing to be admitted to the hospital, has increased every year since it opened in 2011.

“That’s been Rust’s mission since we opened, is to grow with the needs of the community,” she said.

The pediatrics unit will have trained Child Life workers. Program employees help children understand their medical condition and what will happen during tests and treatment, as well as organizing celebrations of holidays and birthdays.

“It’s a really essential part of the care we deliver and an often-unsung part of the care we deliver,” Pederson said.

A Dr. Seuss-themed community movie night to celebrate the opening of the unit and give parents information is set for 6-7:30 p.m. Sept. 20 in the large community room at Rust.

Children will be able to watch a movie while their parents learn about the pediatric unit.