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Hospital of the future 

Setting the standard for neonatal intensive care

Contrary to the unfortunate opinion of some ("Duplication isn't better," April 21), French Hospital Medical Center is proceeding on a sustained and progressive path to enhance the quality of care for all members of our community. It remains French Hospital's goal to raise the level and standard of care through innovation and the adoption of "best practice" in care protocols, while responsibly and prudently managing consumer costs. In fact, current data validates that the implementation of best practices leads to not only better care, but is also associated with reduced health care costs.

The practice of medicine is constantly changing, constantly evolving and advancing, and French Hospital is committed to bringing those advancements in care to our community. SLO County deserves the best that we can provide.

Last year, French Hospital celebrated 75 years of providing exceptional care to the residents of San Luis Obispo. Since it 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 Hospitala culmination of a vision of superior health care and a pledge to care for the community well into the future.

This will transform 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 (NICU) 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.

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.

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:

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

• Sleeping arrangements so parents can stay with their babies.

• Generous square footage allotted per baby to help keep the unit free of infections.

The new NICU, designed in consultation with our local neonatologists, will be the only one of its kind in San Luis Obispo County.

Even beyond this significant commitment, 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 that live and work on the Central Coast and practice at local Dignity Health hospitals, including French Hospital.

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 and serving San Luis Obispo County residents for years to come. Δ

Alan Iftiniuk is President and CEO of French Hospital Medical Center. Dr. Thomas Vendegna serves as chief medical officer for French Hospital. Dr. Robert Turbow is a neonatologist and patient safety officer for Dignity Health Central Coast. Anita Robinson is the French Hospital Medical Center community board chair. Tom Lebens serves as French Hospital Medical Center Foundation board chair. Send comments to

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