Franciscan St. Anthony Health - Crown Point Web Site

Friday, March 30, 2012

NICU Expansion Eyed as First-Year Growth Exceeds Expectations

A year after opening, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Franciscan St. Anthony Health - Crown Point is experiencing growing pains.

From left, Kathy Podorsek, clinical director of The Birth Place; 
Sudhish Chandra, MD, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit medical director; 
and Lori Kemp, a unit nurse, tend to a patient. 
"We are bringing in architects to help us determine how we can expand the NICU, since it has been running a high census and at times at capacity from the day we opened," hospital president David Ruskowski said.  

The 12-bed, 4,210-square-foot unit, which is located in the hospital's obstetrics department, called The Birth Place, averages eight patients daily and cared for 230 its first year. It opened March 7 of last year, following a $2.5 million construction project, which was funded by the hospital's capital campaign.

"Things are going as expected – very well," said unit medical director Sudhish Chandra, MD. "The availability of the NICU has increased the number of parents wanting to have their babies here. If we didn't have the NICU, 80 percent of the babies it treats would have had to be transferred. Parents now know they get the same quality treatment and services for their babies here that they can in Chicago. They don’t have to deal with the stress of separation and traveling there."

The unit is staffed by two neonatologists, with plans for adding a third; two periantologists and more than 30 specially trained registered nurses, who hospital obstetrics clinical director Kathy Podorsek calls, a "special breed of nurses," due to delicate nature of their patients. Most of the patients are born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or have such conditions as low birth weight, heart problems, infections, birth defects or respiratory concerns.

Chandra said his smallest patient to date was born at 23 weeks and weighed 13 ounces. She spent two months in the unit and now is home.

A neonatal nurse practitioner recently was added to the staff. Plans also call for adding a second oscillating ventilator, to handle the ever-increasing patient volume.

"Our obstetrics unit volume was the highest ever last year – 1,613 patients. So far we are already up 30 births from last year," Podorsek said. "We employ dedicated, high-risk doctors in OB, which helps bring in more patients who might need the NICU. Many obstetrics doctors won't practice at a facility that doesn't have a NICU."

She believes the hospital's family-centered philosophy also has contributed to the increase.

"Patient satisfaction is very high; people in the community are hearing about us. For instance, we make it easy for grandparents to visit, even if the parents aren't here. We also allow siblings to visit."

Chandra added, "We go to extra lengths to be family friendly – to make them feel comfortable and well-informed. When they go home, we call after one or two days to see how things are going so they don't feel alone. We help them get through the initial phase until they become comfortable with their pediatrician."

Patient-mother says she’ll find it difficult to leave Franciscan St. Anthony Health

Audrey Finnearty has spent the better part of the last four months at Franciscan St. Anthony Health – the first two in The Birth Place obstetrics unit to treat a condition prior to delivery, and the last two visiting twins Stella and Brody in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Audrey Finnearty is shown in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit 
with her children, twins Stella and Brody. Finnearty spent some two 
months in The Birth Place prior to their premature births on Jan. 22 
and says she will find it difficult to leave the hospital because 
of the care she and they have received.
The children were born prematurely, 28 weeks into pregnancy, and weighed two pounds, 11 ounces.

"It will be hard to leave after spending 10 to 15 hours a day here since Jan. 22 and two months before that – I feel like I am part of the family," Finnearty, of Merrillville, said. "The staff is wonderful; they treat my kids like they were theirs. I wouldn't have made it without these people and neither would have my children."

Finnearty said she was glad her doctor practices at the hospital, because she wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else.

"This is a very nice facility and having the NICU is a big plus – it is so advanced."

She recalled an instance in which Sudhish Chandra, MD, unit medical director, particularly touched her heart.

"I saw him warm the children's little caps in the light before putting them on them – what doctor does that?"

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

No, Kids, I Will Not Pass the Salt!

Anybody hanging out at my house on the weekend sees how my boys love theater style popcorn. You know – the buttery and salty kind. Since this is an occasional treat I let them enjoy.

Yet now I may need to reconsider their weekend treat – salt is everywhere in our foods. Why should we care?

Parents need to watch their salt intake – the recommended sodium intake for adults is 2300mg per day. Unfortunately the average intake of salt for a US adult is 4000-5000mg per day. What foods have high salt? The obvious ones are salted snacks, ham, lunch meats, and fishes canned in oil. Also on the list are processed foods, pizza, hamburger, hot dogs, cheese, pasta and ketchup, mayo and salad dressings. Hamburgers and hot dogs? Aren’t those common foods a child eats?

Why should we monitor the salt intake in our children’s diet? We know that adults who eat a diet high in salt can significantly increase their risk of high blood pressure. The risk of cardiovascular disease and chance of stroke are also increased. If children have a high salt diet they increase their risk of high blood pressure when they become adults. Research is showing a link of a high salt diet to childhood obesity.

The following are the recommended daily allowance of sodium in a child’s diet:

  • 2-3 years old: 1000-1500mg
  • 4-8 years old: 1200-1900mg
  • 9-13 years old: 1500-2200mg
  • 14-18 years old: 1500-2300mg

The simple ways to decrease you and your child’s salt intake are small yet important changes:

  • Eat less fast food - traditionally high in salt.
  • Eat less processed foods.
  • Do not add salt to foods.
  • Read the food label. If it is high in sodium or salt search for an alternative food with low-sodium.

Remember your child can easily get used to a higher salt diet and desire this type of eating. You have the choice and responsibility to teach healthy eating to your child. Please talk to your child’s health care provider if you have questions.

Dr. Lisa Gold is a pediatrician practicing in Crown Point, Indiana, at the Crown Point Pediatric Health Center.

Monday, March 5, 2012

March "Spirit of Women" Seminar - 10 Signs of Alzheimer's

"Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer's: Early Detection Matters"

This introductory program provides an understanding of the difference between age-related memory loss and Alzheimer's disease.

For more information or to register, please call (800) 931-3322.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
6:00 p.m.
Franciscan St. Anthony Health- Crown Point
1201 South Main Street
Crown Point, Indiana
Marian Education Center

For more information about these events call (800) 931-3322. To sign up for Spirit of Women, visit and click your hospital or fill out our online form on Facebook!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New EMS Director Appointed

Robert Dowling is the new director of Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point's Emergency Medical Services Academy-Provider Organization, succeeding the late Don Hess, who was Dowling's predecessor and mentor.

Dowling, 42, a firefighter/paramedic who has taught at the academy for more than five years, will begin his new role on March 19. He said he accepted the job on Feb. 23, following an offer made by Dr. Daniel Netluch, Franciscan St. Anthony chief of emergency services. Dowling had been serving as interim director since September.

Netluch said Dowling was among about a dozen "outstanding" candidates from Northwest Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, who were considered by a six-member committee.

"At the end of the day, the committee chose Rob because of his extensive and well-rounded background in EMS and emergency preparedness. He is well-respected, hard-working and the perfect fit to help take the EMS academy to the next level," Netluch said.

Dowling, currently assistant Schererville fire chief, said he is resigning that post effective March 9 and looks forward to his new opportunity.

"I see my new role as a challenge and have the willingness to help push Don's legacy forward,” Dowling said.

"Don was an icon among emergency services educators in the state. We were close friends and colleagues for years. I want to try to continue his legacy the best I can."

Hess died Aug. 18 after serving 12 years as academy manager and 28 years in the emergency services field. The academy, which has been in place since 1992 and has 20 instructors, trains most of the emergency medical technicians and paramedics in south Lake County.

After accepting the interim director position in September, Dowling at that time said of Hess, "It is terribly difficult to sit in his chair, in his office, but I thought it would be the right thing to do."

Asked how he feels sitting in Hess's chair now, Dowling said, "It's getting easier. I am working to make the office my own, with the help of Lenore (Hess's widow). I still hope for Don’s guidance as I do the job."

Dowling said he also will help benefit child cancer research, by getting his head shaved on March 17, as part of the annual St. Baldrick's Day fund-raiser program, which begins at 1 p.m. at the Crown Point Fire Department. Persons interested in participating, or donating to the program, should call Linda in the EMS office, at (219) 757-6334, or the mayor’s office, at (219) 662-3240.