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STARS Program at Golisano Children’s Hospital Launches

Press Releases


Emergency Medical Services Providers and Fire Departments in Three Counties

Come Together to Help Save Children’s Lives

(Fort Myers, Fla. – May 12, 2023) --- Southwest Florida first responders have joined together with Golisano Children’s Hospital to bring the Special Needs Tracking and Awareness Response System (STARS)—a program that saves lives by accelerating emergency medical care for children with complex medical conditions—to Southwest Florida.

STARS was recently implemented at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. The program began in Lee County and quickly expanded into Charlotte and Collier counties, with an extension into Hendry County currently underway.

The benefit to pediatric patients is that everyone involved in their care from 911 dispatch to first responders to hospital staff is well prepared every step of the way and knows exactly what the patient needs and when they need it. This is particularly useful in helping emergency responders treat patients with rare and complex medical problems not often encountered.

“Navigating the obstacles of raising two medically complex children can provide a unique set of challenges when it comes to emergency care,” said Beth Fugere, whose children are part of STARS. “The STARS program provides an individualized, up-to-date plan of care for my children while equipping first responders and the hospital with the key knowledge necessary to care for them proactively and expeditiously in times of greatest need. When seconds matter, I can count on STARS to provide the comfort and peace of mind for the health and safety of my children, and myself.”

When a child with complex medical needs is enrolled in STARS by a referral from their physician or via Golisano Children’s Hospital, they are assigned a number. When they need emergency medical care, the person who calls 911 will give dispatch the child’s STARS number. Dispatch then communicates the patient’s emergency care plan to the first responders running the call. Once the team arrives to care for the child, they will already know the child’s baseline condition and be ready to administer care right away. Golisano Children’s Hospital will also be alerted that the child is on the way and be ready to quickly provide treatment. The STARS program saves valuable time in these critical encounters when seconds often matter the most.

Golisano Children’s Hospital is the first to bring the program outside of Illinois and Missouri, where it was founded at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.

“The goal is to make emergency care easier and safer, not just for our community’s high-priority pediatric patients, but also for first responders and hospital staff,” said nurse manager at Golisano Children’s Hospital, Niki Shimko. “First responders can access the patient’s information before they arrive, which gives them an idea of what they’re walking into. This is a game changer for Southwest Florida. The STARS program saves lives, provides better outcomes, and a better patient experience.”

By using a referral number, the STARS program pairs personalized emergency care plans written specifically for EMS, fire departments and emergency department staff with the development of a centralized web-based system that integrates with 911 dispatch.

The program is currently active throughout several jurisdictions in Charlotte, Collier and Lee Counties, and so far, about 160 pediatric patients are enrolled.

“Pediatric emergencies are some of the most nerve-racking encounters for health care providers. The STARS registry has gone a long way to provide emergency services personnel with critical information early in the encounter,” said Colin Johnson, deputy chief, Lee County Public Safety. “Oftentimes, this information can make a drastic impact on both the provider and the patient. The STARS registry is truly one of the best preparedness tools for pediatric health care.”

A child must be referred into the program and it’s available for all children who qualify until they graduate out of the program.

“It can feel overwhelming at first glance to see a child on various tubes or monitors,” said firefighter, paramedic Desiree Schultz from Bonita Springs Fire Control and Rescue. “The STARS program provides our crews with a critical baseline appearance and ‘normal limit’ vitals for the patient, even before we arrive on scene. It takes the guesswork out of our initial assessment and treatment decisions when time might make all the difference in outcome.”

The STARS program at Golisano Children’s Hospital is funded by the Lee Health Foundation.

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