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Ventura County News Roundup

VENTURA : Newborn Unit Gets Higher Status Level

April 22, 1993|JANE HULSE

Page Petrides wheeled her 16-month-old twins into a balloon-filled room at Ventura County Medical Center on Wednesday to join a celebration in honor of the hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Nursery.

Because of advances in the nursery's treatment capabilities, the unit has received a higher level of certification from the state agency that accredits such facilities.

To mark the occasion, the hospital invited 26 families whose children received lifesaving care in the nursery to a reception.

Petrides' twins, Ethan and Taylor, were born three months prematurely--each was less than two pounds--and spent three to four months in the unit before going home.

"We didn't think they were going to live," said Petrides of Ventura. "They're out of the woods completely now. They're beautiful." Because of her experience, Petrides said, she has decided to go to nursing school and may specialize in neonatal care.

The hospital's newborn intensive care unit was established in 1974 and remains the only one of its kind in the county, although Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks plans to have one in place by next year.

About 450 to 500 preemies and other critically ill newborns are treated at the county hospital each year. Because of the demand, the unit expanded from 20 to 30 beds last year. On the average, 25 beds are occupied. The unit's certification, known as Level 3, means the hospital can handle the broadest spectrum of newborn diseases, including pediatric surgery, neurosurgery and cardiology. Previously, the nursery held that status level on a probationary basis, according to Dr. Michael Mah, a neonatologist.

The higher level enables the hospital to treat tinier, sicker babies, he said.

"The center does almost everything that can be done on babies," he said. "We're taking care of babies born as much as four months premature with birth weights as low as one pound three ounces." The unit's survival rate is better than 95%. The unit has added a neonatal respiratory therapist, Mah said, and has a second life-support system to use when critically ill newborns are transported from other hospitals to the county hospital.

The Medical Resource Foundation, which raises funds to buy medical equipment for the unit, has kicked off its "Campaign for the Children '93" with a goal of $275,000. Equipment provided during the last year included special pumps used to help newborns with breathing problems.

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