SALT LAKE CITY — When she was a new mother, Utah philanthropist and businesswoman Gail Miller’s first baby had an undetected injury after he fell off a bed.
At Greg Miller’s routine five-month check-up, the doctor discovered he had a subdural hematoma, Gail Miller recalled.
The doctor commanded Miller to “take him straight up to Primary Children’s Hospital.”
“That saved his life,” Miller said of the two surgeries her son received to remove the blood clots. “And the doctors and the nurses there were incredible.”
Miller became emotional as she told that story to a crowd gathered at the hospital’s outpatient center as Intermountain Healthcare on Tuesday announced its plan to create a national model for children’s health care.
As part of the plan, the organization will also build a new Primary Children’s Hospital campus in Lehi.
“Now, we’re packed to the gills because the community has grown,” said Dr. Marc Harrison, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare. “Now, we’re about to take another great leap.”
The plan, including new and expanded facilities, will be funded with $500 million, $50 million of which will be donated by Miller and her family — their largest single donation the family has ever made.
“I know that for a young mother, the need is great to have the people caring for your children understand you and what you’re going through, and how hard it is to face that kind of trauma alone,” Miller explained.
“It’s more than we’ve ever done before — it’s a huge leap of faith — but we know how important it is to the children of our state and our intermountain region, for the primary promise to build the nation’s model health care system for children in the Intermountain West. And we are grateful to be a part of it. We hope that by giving as we have, we will encourage others to give as their hearts are opened to contribute to the cause of children.
“This is just the beginning of a health care future,” she said.
Intermountain will provide $250 million of the funds required to implement its plan, and the rest is being sought by the Intermountain Foundation through philanthropic support.
Katy Welkie, CEO of Primary Children’s Hospital and vice president of Intermountain’s Children’s Health, called the plan “region- and generation-spanning,” and said it would position Utah “as the home for the nation’s healthiest pediatric population.”
Under the three-tiered plan, the organization says it will strengthen the existing Primary Children’s Hospital by creating an advanced fetal care center with “groundbreaking” fetal surgery offered, enlarging its neonatal intensive care unit, and expanding its cancer treatment center.
It will also use “breakthroughs” in pediatric research in partnership with the University of Utah Health at the Primary Children’s Center for Personalized Medicine, which was announced late last year.
The second aspect of its plan includes building the new five-story, 66-bed Lehi campus. It will offer trauma and emergency services, behavioral health, and surgical and clinic services. The organization will also extend specialty care to families “outside the Wasatch Front” through telemedicine and digital services, according to Intermountain officials.
The third part of Intermountain’s plan includes an emphasis on mental and behavioral health services. The organization says it will add new locations, call centers, and telehealth services by collaborating with community organizations. It will also create programs to help teens with conditions like diabetes and cystic fibrosis transition to adult programs.
“I think what really makes this effort so unique is the benefit of not only having one freestanding children’s hospital, but a second one as we meet the needs of a growing population. But in the context of a health care system with 23 hospitals, a 24th virtual hospital, physical footprints in three intermountain states, and a virtual presence and outreach in virtually every other intermountain state plus Alaska, we’re growing quickly for all the right reasons to serve,” Harrison said.
It’s a burden for families seeking care to need to find it outside their communities, he said, and the plan “is going to bring care to people right where they need it.”
“To keep people in the right place at the right time near their families, and to do it at the right cost, is such a privilege, and that is what a model health care system for the future for children looks like,” he said.
This story will be updated.