Within a matter of days, USC Verdugo Hill Hospital is expecting clearance to begin delivering on-site neonatal intensive care in a new unit that will feature specialized staff and equipment to treat ill or premature newborns.
Bringing a NICU to USC-VHH has been priority for CEO Keith Hobbs since he arrived at the hospital in early 2016, and during a recent tour, he was pleased to show off one of the new ward’s six private rooms, each equipped with a NICVIEW online camera system that will allow parents and other family members to watch their infants 24 hours a day.
“We spared no expense to bring state-of-the-art equipment we have into this unit,” Hobbs said during a recent tour of a $3 million-plus renovation of the hospital’s eighth floor, which could be licensed by the Department of Health Services by March 20.
“We took it down to the studs and rebuilt it from there,” Hobbs said. “It was amazing to actually walk through this thing before everything got put back together and just to see the transformation and how vibrant it is now.”
Without a NICU, USC-VHH sent expectant mothers who were liable to experience birthing complications to area hospitals better equipped to care for them and their babies. If there was an emergency upon delivery, often Children’s Hospital Los Angeles was a destination (and still could be, if a higher level of care is required, Hobbs said).
USC-VHH can offer most of that care itself, Hobbs said, with added privacy and a technological assist from the web cameras, which were paid for in full at a fundraiser at last year’s USC-VHH Foundation Annual Golf Classic, where it took just minutes to raise $31,000.
“The community’s outpouring of success for this unit was just spectacular,” Hobbs said, explaining that “families will get a secure passcode that will then be deleted for the next patient who comes in and they’ll be able to view their loved ones pretty much all day, unless there’s a procedure being done where we have to move the camera.
“And think about that most exciting time and your loved one has to stay in for a few extra days — to be able to share that with Grandma or Grandpa who haven’t had a chance to hold their loved one yet because they had to be taken to a NICU, I’m sure this will be a huge success for families.”
New nurses also have been hired and others trained to confidently treat newborns, said Chief Nursing Officer Theresa Murphy. A trained occupational therapist also will be available, she said.
“Before the baby is discharged home, a tremendous amount of education takes place. There’s a lot of helping parents to have confidence so they know what to do and if something doesn’t seem right, that they can come into our emergency department,” Murphy said.
Hobbs also boasted of the wireless record-keeping that will be taking place.
“All of his or her charge entry information would go right through here and this is a wireless connection to our electronic medical record information system, so it doesn’t have to be plugged in and there’s no chance of human error,” he said. “Think of when you go use an ATM, or go to a restaurant and use your credit card. It all funnels to the database for your American Express or Visa or Mastercard or so forth, and so all of our information ends up going right to our computer system that stores all of our electronic medical records.”
The new NICU takes the place of the cardiac critical care unit, Hobbs said, in a move that makes sense for multiple departments.
“What we basically did,” he said, “was we moved that unit down, next door to our other ICU, so now we have synergy with our nursing staff. Instead of walking between floors, they’re just walking down the hallway, basically to the room right next door and we have all our ICUs, our critical care and intensive care units right next to each other.”
Clearly, Hobbs is proud of his hospital’s new addition.
“I think this is going to be wildly successful,” he said. “The community outpouring of physicians, the support of Keck Medical, financially to make it a reality … it’s been a good combination.”