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Fountain Valley : Hospital Ready to Offer Pediatric Intensive Care

The county’s second pediatric intensive care unit--a special hospital ward for critically ill children--celebrated its opening Thursday at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital.

The ward will be inspected by state health officials Monday, and if the papers are signed that day, “we’ll be accepting patients Monday afternoon,” said Linda Paternie, head nurse of pediatrics.

The ward consists of four beds, three of which can be converted into cribs and each adjacent to heart and respiratory monitors that feed information to the nurses’ station just a few feet away. One of the beds is in an “isolation room” to keep children with contagious diseases from infecting others, Paternie said.

She said she expects many of the patients to be trauma victims injured in car crashes, near drownings or falls. (The hospital is a regional trauma center.) Two pediatric trauma victims admitted this week could have used the new unit, she said. Other patients could include children suffering from critical illnesses such as meningitis, asthma, encephalitis, Reyes syndrome or infections, officials said.

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Until now, critically ill children have been cared for in the hospital’s adult intensive care unit or have been transferred to the county’s first pediatric intensive care unit at Childrens Hospital of Orange County.

In Fountain Valley’s new ward, the stark hospital walls are softened by a pastel wallpaper border of teddy bears, and for Thursday’s grand opening, dolls took the place of sick children in the beds.

About three-quarters the hospital’s 30 pediatric nurses underwent two years of training to qualify for work in the intensive care unit, Paternie said. Depending on the severity of a patient’s illness, there will be one or two nurses assigned to each sick child, she said.

“The nurses are quite excited about this. We’ve been looking forward to this for two years,” Paternie said. “Last week, if we could have had this opened, we would have had the beds filled twice over.”

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