St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children Recognized for Comprehensive, Life-Affirming Palliative Program

St. Mary’s Receives Award from Children’s Hospice International

Bayside, NY, June 20, 2007 – St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children, one of the nation’s premier providers of intensive rehabilitative and specialized medical care for children, was honored by Children’s Hospice International (CHI) for its ground-breaking Pediatric Palliative Care and End-of-Life Program. St. Mary’s was recognized for pioneering the first inpatient pediatric palliative care program in the United States, designed to improve the care and quality of life for children with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions and their families. The award was presented by Ann Armstrong-Dailey, CHI founding director and chief executive officer, at a special ceremony on May 11, 2007 commemorating the 25 th Anniversary of CHI.

“We are deeply honored by this recognition from CHI,” remarked Burton Grebin, MD, president and chief executive officer of St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children. “We opened the doors of our Pediatric Palliative Care Program in 1984 with 10 beds, a trained and compassionate staff, and a goal of creating an environment that promotes the greatest healing potential for our young patients. Over the past 23 years, our comprehensive program has grown into a model program of pediatric care.”

Today one third of St. Mary’s children receive some palliative care services, which are integrated throughout the health system and provided in inpatient, home and community-based settings. Key to the success of the program is the family-centered approach to care, allowing families to choose among a wide range of support services and treatment options for their children. Led by an interdisciplinary team of dedicated clinicians and professionals, St. Mary’s Palliative Care and End-of-Life Program combines complementary therapies such as art and music therapy, guided imagery, Reiki, therapeutic touch, and aromatherapy with more traditional pain and symptoms medical management modalities. St. Mary’s offers a full range of support services, including pastoral care, mental health, social work, and “Doula” volunteers to assist the child and family through difficult decisions and the associated suffering inherent in coping with a life-limiting disease. Staff facilitate bereavement groups to help families through the grieving process. Using an “Anticipatory Guidance Model” for care delivery, expert clinicians de-mystify the dying process for parents through truth-telling, individualized goal setting and advance care planning, and creating a “Peaceful Dying Plan” for each child at end-of-life. Staff developed a “Peaceful Transitions” booklet to inform and prepare parents for end-of-life changes, empowering them to participate fully and increase their child’s comfort during their final days of life.

St. Mary’s Palliative Care Program was previously honored with the prestigious Circle of Life Award for innovation in palliative care from the American Hospital Association and the New York State Quality Award for Best Practice in Pain Management and Palliative Care from the State Department of Health in 2004.

The CHI event attracted advocates of children’s health issues from across the country, including Dr. Richard Daines, New York State commissioner of health. Also in attendance was award-winning children’s author and illustrator, Chris Raschka, whose new book, The Purple Balloon, a gentle reassuring book for children with life-threatening conditions and the people who love them, was unveiled at a special reading and book-signing event the same weekend.