Emergency Room Expansion at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health Brings Specialized Areas, Increased Space

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Emergency Room Expansion at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health Brings Specialized Areas, Increased Space

Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health added 10 additional beds and nearly 7,500 square feet to Oklahoma City’s only 24/7 pediatric emergency room, increasing space and specialized services to meet the needs of children and families seeking emergency care.

The Oklahoma Children’s Hospital ER sees over 40,000 children every year. These numbers peak in respiratory season —from November to March —when as much as 30% more patients come for treatment than months outside of respiratory season. The extra beds will help alleviate the increased demand in seasonal needs as well as the increase in pediatric behavioral health cases seen in the ER.

The seasonal increase in pediatric behavioral health cases partially overlaps with respiratory season, causing an influx of patients requiring emergency care. The added beds will allow for increased capacity for patients and families and will also help bridge the gap in behavioral health services until the new Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health Behavioral Health Center opens in 2026.

The construction was the first project approved by the Oklahoma elected officials to utilize federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) dollars, with a dedicated $7.5 million to fund the project.

“The new Emergency Room expansion at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health will have a profound impact on our patients and staff,” said OU Health Chief Administrative Officer of Children’s Services, Kendal Pinkston, MHA. “This new space will allow us to care for more patients in an environment that has been made safe and accommodating for all patient care types. We are incredibly grateful for the support of our Oklahoma elected officials in awarding the funding for this project and recognize the significance in them choosing this project for our state’s most vulnerable children.”

The new ER rooms are flexible and can be used for standard emergency visits, but they can also accommodate patients needing treatment in behavioral health facilities. The expansion includes shower facilities, a sensory playroom equipped by the Child Life & Therapeutic Services team with recreation and educational activities, secure lockers and a “Sally port” garage to allow for safe transport to the Behavioral Health Center once it opens.

“Together, we are committed to delivering on these resources for Oklahoma’s children, and I am proud to be part of the team that recognized a need and acted swiftly to deliver,” said Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah.

Today, 1 in 5 children struggle to cope with the challenges of mental or behavioral issues and children from every background and economic status can be affected. The mental health crisis has worsened since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and is often amplified by factors like social media use and trauma in a child’s home. In Oklahoma, suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young people ages 10-24.

Many families in Oklahoma have difficulty finding services for their children, leaving parents unsure of where to take their children who are experiencing a mental health crisis. They rely on local hospitals, and emergency rooms are not equipped to deal with pediatric health crises beyond initial de-escalation and intervention.

“It is our duty to be passionate advocates for Oklahomans who need it most, and our children are at the top of that list. Delivering on this expansion is a first step in providing increased and specialized health care access to our kids and families in need,” said Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan.

The additional beds will allow the ER to cohort behavioral health patients in a more balanced and quieter environment, away from the hustle and bustle of the main ER while waiting for placement.

The Behavioral Health Center is projected to be fully operational by December 2026 and will be the only such facility in the state that is part of a comprehensive children’s hospital and will be located adjacent to Oklahoma Children’s Hospital.