Truman W. Smith Patients Relocated, Again - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/23/04-Longview

Truman W. Smith Patients Relocated, Again

Organizers are looking for alternative sites for patients after a fire forced the evacuation of the Truman W. Smith Children's Center in Gladewater Monday night. In a bitter cold, around 20 children from Truman Smith were moved this morning from The Willows Nursing Center in Kilgore, after a two-day stay.

"It was a tragedy and I was so glad that we were here for them and able to take them and as many as we could," said Sondra Scalco, the Willows administrator.

These children, along with 18 others, will be cared for at UT Tyler Health Center in Tyler.  Health care workerse are now looking for other more suitable locations for the rest of the Truman patients.

"Some of theses facilities took the kids on short notice and were not prepared to continue to care for our children for the duration of us getting back into our building," says Truman Smith administrator Ken Williams.

Seven different nursing homes took children in, but because many kids require specialized care, an alternative facility is urgently needed.

"A nursing facility like ours, a long-term care facility, we don't have piped in oxygen we don't have piped in suction in every room which a lot of the children require, and we don't have pediatric nurses," said former Truman employee and Willows nursing director Sandy Russell.

"We've got kids that have specialized needs, specialized treatments that can't be done at just any facility," Williams said.

Concerns about Truman workers being laid-off were put to rest when the state approved to continue funding workers wherever the kids are housed.

"The job means the world to us, the kids mean the world to us, but the fact that it'll all come back together means more," says 8-year Truman Smith nurse Robin Reinhart.

Even State Representative Tommy Merritt pitched in, calling every agency he could try to find place for these children to go.

"To make sure all these agencies to surround these kids to where they have a good Christmas, it'll be tough, but bringing them back home is the whole idea," says Merritt.

Estimates run from one to three months on when the children might be able to return to Truman Smith. So far, East Texans have been incredibly generous in helping the children, collecting hundreds of toys, and raising mroe than $20,000 in donations.

Bob Hallmark, reporting.

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