BOSTON

Parents and Kids Push Back Against Plan to Close Tufts Children's Hospital

Tufts announced that the facility formerly known as the Floating Hospital for Children would be closed by July; more than 26,000 people have signed a petition to keep it open

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Sick children and their parents are trying to keep a Boston hospital from closing.

They say the decision to convert pediatric beds to adult beds at Tufts Children's Hospital will have a huge impact on their care, and they have decided to fight back.

Earlier this month, Tufts announced it will close the hospital, formerly known as The Floating Hospital for Children, by July. Tufts said the decision comes as they see fewer children being hospitalized. At the same time, they said the demand for ICU beds for adults is rising.

Alexa Pantoja just spent nine months at Tufts Children's Hospital, battling a rare form of leukemia. The 15-year-old from Westford still has a number of follow-up appointments ahead and would prefer not to be transferred. She said the small, intimate setting that Tufts provided made a big difference, which is why she is trying to save the hospital that saved her.

"They knew me as a patient inside and out. They knew my favorite foods and my favorite games. The safety that I feel here, I know I won't feel anywhere else," Pantoja said.

She is far from alone in her concern. Heather Lino's 4-year-old son, James, spent 250 nights at Tufts battling T-cell lymphoma.

"I don't know what we'll do. These children need these doctors. They want to be at Tufts," Lino said.

Both families have signed an online petition to try to keep the hospital open. It has received more than 26,000 signatures in a matter of days.

"I'll do anything I can to save it, but I know I can't do it alone," Pantoja said.

Dr. Lisa Capras, a pediatric hospitalist at Tufts Children's, said the unit is busier than its ever been. She and her colleagues have concerns about the impact this will have on access to care, especially with the pandemic causing a mental health crisis among children.

"I think that's part of the reason why we are so stunned and so bereft. To take this away now makes no sense to us," Dr. Capras said.

Tufts said it is working with Boston Children's to transfer patients. Those against the closure plan to host a rally next month.

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