BOSTON (WHDH) - The Wellforce Health System announced Thursday that it plans to convert its 41 Tufts Children’s Hospital pediatric inpatient beds to adult ICU and medical/surgical beds later this year.

The number of adult patients in need of highly specialized medical care at Tufts Medical Center has risen dramatically and led to the hospital being forced to turn away hundreds of patients each month, according to Wellforce.

Wellforce and Boston Children’s Hospital have signed a letter of intent to work together, which would allow Tufts Children’s Hospital to refer their pediatric patients who require acute or specialty care to Boston Children’s Hospital, Wellforce said. The collaboration agreement is expected to become effective July 1, pending regulatory approval.

“Since 1796, it has been our mission to serve the medical needs of the adults and children in our community with the very best care, and we have done that with extraordinary skill and compassion. Our Medical Center has never been stronger, but now patient needs are changing,” said Michael Tarnoff, MD, FACS, President and CEO of Tufts Medical Center. “As we look toward the future, we must make this difficult but crucial decision. I am confident that through this collaboration with Boston Children’s Hospital, we will best serve the long-term health needs and well-being of our patients, our families, our employees, our trainees and the communities Wellforce serves.”

Tufts Medical Center’s 40-bed, Level 3 neonatal intensive care unit will remain in operation.

The hospital will also continue to provide pediatric primary care services, the Center for Children with Special Needs, and the New England Pediatric Care — a long-term care facility for children.

Wellforce says talks are also underway between Tufts Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital to plan for collaborating in the delivery of pediatric ambulatory specialty services, including satellite physician services, and how to best support Wellforce’s pediatric community hospital network and its network of pediatricians who coordinate care for about 70,000 pediatric patients across the region.

“This is an innovative collaboration that allows two world class institutions to coordinate highly sophisticated care to those most in need,” said Michael Dandorph, President and CEO of Wellforce. “I am convinced, by working together we will expand access to high quality care in a way that also addresses the need to lower the overall cost of health care. We look forward to working out all the details with Boston Children’s in a way that ensures the needs of all stakeholders are best served.”

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