November 25, 2022
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Opinion: French Hospital NICU will set a new standard for care in SLO

IN THIS ARTICLE

By Alan Iftiniuk, Dr. Thomas Vendegna and Dr. Robert Turbow

Last year, French Hospital Medical Center celebrated 75 years of providing exceptional care to the residents of San Luis Obispo. Since French Hospital first opened its doors in 1946, the facility has evolved to meet the needs of our growing community, and is now nationally recognized for patient safety, cardiac care, orthopedics, stroke treatment and maternity.

From the beginning, we made a commitment to provide exceptional health care for every stage of life, combining physicians from top medical schools, the latest advanced technologies, and safe, quality care for our patients and their families — a promise we intend to keep.

To date, we have expanded our facility to include the renowned Copeland, Forbes & Rossi Cardiac Care Center; Copeland Health Education Pavilion; Stollmeyer Family Birthing Center; Hearst Cancer Resource Center; Oppenheimer Family Center for Emergency Medicine; and more.

As our community continues to grow, we remain committed to being at the forefront of health care. As such, we are building the hospital of the future: Your New French Hospital, a culmination of a vision of superior health care and a pledge to care for the community, well into the future.

This incredible undertaking will transcend French into the hospital of the future, far exceeding the needs and expectations of our growing community through advanced technologies and highly skilled personnel.

The elaborate $150 million-plus project is being partially funded through the Beyond Health campaign, with community support from our donors, who share in our vision.

When our patients and their families spoke, we listened. The decision to build an innovative Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was in part at the request of the community. Their support has been vast, and backed with generous gifts of more than $5 million for the NICU project alone.

While there are many aspects to Your New French Hospital, constructing the modernized 16-bed Level III Stan and Barbara Clark NICU advances excellence by offering comprehensive care for expectant mothers and their babies.

Parents should have the opportunity to select where they want to give birth, and our Stollmeyer Birthing Center will integrate seamlessly with our new NICU, offering an elite birthing experience and the safety net of neonatal care, if required.

The Acute Care Nursery at French has been caring for premature and other sick newborns for several years, but the NICU at French Hospital represents an advancement of integrated maternal-child services on the Central Coast. The substantial investment in staff, facility, and equipment will help ensure that the NICU continues to provide excellent care. In addition to the contributions of the highly skilled hospital staff, NICU care has always been provided exclusively by neonatologists, NICU nurses, and respiratory therapists that care only for sick newborns.

Newborn intensive care is one of the most dynamic and rapidly changing fields in all of medicine. Approaches and equipment that were considered “state-of-the-art” years and decades ago have given way to evidenced-based, innovative, and often less invasive techniques.

Our advanced NICU will utilize the latest ventilators, infusion pumps, radiant warmers, isolettes, and other equipment to help ensure the safe care of our tiniest and most fragile patients. The new facility at French Hospital will meet or exceed all current state requirements for NICU care in California. In many cases, the requirements will be far exceeded with:

• sleeping arrangements so parents can stay with their babies;

• generous square footage allotted per baby to help keep the unit free of infections;

• private, family-centric patient rooms. Research shows that private rooms facilitate healing and bonding and enhance patient safety.

The new NICU, designed in consultation with our local neonatologists, will be the only one of its kind in San Luis Obispo County, and will continue to meet or exceed current patient safety and quality initiatives — standards French Hospital are nationally recognized for.

Even beyond the substantial investment in staff, equipment, and the new facility, the NICU also draws from the mission-driven, not-for profit approach of CommonSpirit Health, Dignity Health’s parent company. In fact, many nationally adopted initiatives (obstetrical complications, newborn hyperbilirubinemia, infants born dependent on maternal substances, etc.) were developed with the assistance of perinatologists and neonatologists who live and work on the Central Coast and practice at local Dignity Health hospitals, including French Hospital.

In addition to providing the highest level of care for our most vulnerable newborns, there are many more features to this new facility beyond the NICU to serve our community, including:

• a new four-story 85,000 square foot patient care tower;

• 56 single patient rooms, bringing the total licensed bed count to 180 and making it the largest hospital in San Luis Obispo County

• an additional 10 Intensive Care Unit beds, bringing the total to 21 (all single rooms);

• a new front entrance, lobby, and dining area;

• Swanson Family Chapel, a new interfaith chapel;

• Swanson Robotic Surgery Program;

• holistic grounds and healing spaces;

• a rooftop garden terrace;

• expanded space for imaging, labs, food preparation, and more;

• enhanced technologies and services;

• a heliport landing pad for emergencies;

• a new parking structure.

Once complete, French Hospital Medical Center’s innovative campus will set the standard for health care in San Luis Obispo County.

French Hospital has deep roots here, and strong partnerships that have formed over our many years of service, and we are incredibly proud to serve our great community. We look forward to the future of our facility and serving San Luis Obispo County residents for years to come.

• Alan Iftiniuk is president and CEO of French Hospital Medical Center, Dr. Thomas Vendegna is chief medical officer for French Hospital, and Dr. Robert Turbow is a neonatologist and patient safety officer for Dignity Health Central Coast. Anita Robinson, the French Hospital Medical Center community board chair, and Tom Lebens, the French Hospital Medical Center Foundation board chair, also contributed to this article.