The first pediatric intensive care unit in the San Gabriel Valley has been opened at Huntington Memorial Hospital.
The unit will specialize in treating children from 1 month to 18 years old who are critically ill from such diseases as meningitis and terminal cancer or because of traumatic injuries.
The unit, which opened last week, is part of the hospital's 28-bed pediatric department. It has 15 beds, six for children whose vital signs are unstable and nine for children who are basically stable but need constant monitoring because their situations could deteriorate.
The hospital created the unit as part of the existing pediatrics floor and added two pediatricians trained in pediatric intensive care. The hospital plans to open a new pediatric center in December and will add two more pediatricians so the unit will be staffed around the clock. The pediatrics department has 50 nurses, some of whom have received training in intensive care. According to hospital spokesmen, all the pediatric nurses will eventually receive the training.
The director of the unit is Dr. Edgardo L. Arcinue, 42, who established the pediatric intensive care unit at Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit in 1971. He directed the unit until he was recruited by Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles in 1980 to establish and direct a similar unit there.
As director of the Huntington unit, Arcinue will be involved in training the staff, including pediatricians and nurses, in supervising the operation of the unit and its equipment and in getting doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers and administrators working as a team, he said.
The unit is a logical extension of Huntington's role as a regional hospital, said spokeswoman Kay Murphy. In 1973 the hospital established a neo-natal intensive care unit that draws critically ill infants from hospitals throughout the West San Gabriel Valley. Murphy said the new pediatric unit bridges the gap between the intensive care unit for infants, who are usually there because of problems at birth, and the unit for adults.
The pediatric unit will serve children from as far away as Riverside and the Antelope Valley, Arcinue said. If the distance is longer than a
30-minute drive by ambulance, he said, the children will be brought to Huntington by paramedics' helicopters.
"I envision that the same hospitals using our neo-natal ICU will use our pediatrics ICU," Arcinue said.
"We will hold information sessions for pediatricians and for emergency room physicians at other hospitals, so they can phone us for advice. The pediatric population in emergency rooms is not that large so most of those doctors are used to dealing with adults."
Arcinue said the new unit will be geographically convenient for pediatricians in the San Gabriel Valley and predicted it will have "a magnet effect on the entire pediatric floor, attracting more patients."
Murphy said the current occupancy rate of the pediatric unit is 72.6% and there are no plans now to increase the number of beds.
Other pediatric ICUs in the county, according to the Southern California Intensive Care Network Inc., are at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center near Torrance, Miller Children's Hospital Medical Center of Long Beach, and Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital, UCLA Medical Center, County-USC Medical Center and White Memorial Medical Center, all in Los Angeles.
Arcinue, a Pasadena resident, is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at USC School of Medicine. He and his wife Lucenia, an anesthesiologist, have four children, ages 14 to 17.
Arcinue and his wife were medical school classmates and worked at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila before moving to the United States in 1967. Arcinue was an intern at Grace Hospital in Detroit and later moved to Pittsburgh, where he became assistant director of the intensive care unit at Childrens Hospital.
Arcinue said he became interested in pediatric intensive care units while he was researching Reye's syndrome in Pittsburgh. Reye's syndrome is an acute pediatric illness involving brain swelling that results in a 42% death rate within three to five days, Arcinue said. It often follows influenza or chicken pox.
"I was interested because those children belong in an intensive care unit, but 15 years ago the concept of pediatric ICUs was relatively new," Arcinue said.
When he joined Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles, Arcinue said, it had pediatric ICU beds, but no formal program.
"Childrens . . . told me they wanted the biggest unit in the country and they do have it now (with 87 beds and 120 nurses)," he said.
"I could have stayed there but I was becoming more and more an administrator, and I like to take care of patients on a daily basis.
"I would rather hear, 'You saved my son,' than, 'You built the biggest ICU.' "