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New pediatric trauma center to serve Valley children

October 1, 2010 |  1:16 pm

Traumacenter A new pediatric trauma center is scheduled to open Monday in Northridge, offering more rapid treatment to children with life-threatening injuries, and increasing their chances of survival.

The new center at the Northridge Hospital Medical Center in the San Fernando Valley is the only local venue where youngsters with critical traumatic injuries can get immediate and around-the-clock care.

“It is going to have an enormous impact,” said Mike Wall, president and chief executive of Northridge Hospital Center after Friday’s ceremonial opening of the pediatric facility. “Now any of our children with any kind of traumatic injury, will be able to have…the best possible care.”

The center is expected to serve as many as 3 million residents in the Valley and surrounding areas, hospital officials said.

Dr. Stephen Shew, medical director of pediatric trauma services, said access to a local pediatric center with specialized trauma care, will significantly decrease the time that sick or injured children in the Valley have to access possibly lifesaving treatment.

“Trauma is the leading cause of death and disability in children,” Shew said. “This fact is tempered by the fact that immediate care is what’s most critical in trying to save lives and minimize the injuries that could cause disabilities.”

The aim of the new center is to provide care within the first 30 minutes of need, the most critical period for treating severely fragile children, Shew said.

The new center will have physicians specializing in fields such as emergency medicine, anesthesia, orthopedics and neurosurgery, as well as registered nurses and respiratory therapists with expertise in pediatric care.

Wall, the hospital chief executive, said almost $3 million had been invested for the initial start-up costs. Legislation for the preliminary funding was first introduced in 2005 by Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon through a bill he sponsored for general trauma care needs while serving as a state senator.

A percentage of funds was ultimately slated to be dedicated to pediatric trauma care.

Alarcon’s 3-year-old son, Richie, died in 1987 following a car crash in Tujunga. The councilman recalled it took more than half an hour to transport him to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.

It is unclear whether more immediate treatment would have helped save the boy’s life, but Alarcon stressed the importance of providing that window of opportunity.

“I have very mixed emotions,” Alarcon said after Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. “The emotion of having this accomplishment finally come to fruition has reaccelerated the sadness I have for the loss of my son. But I am very, very happy that many young people will live better lives, or avoid death, because of this center.”

-- Ann M. Simmons

Photo: L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, left, Northridge Hospital President and CEO Mike Wall, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield and L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon at Friday's opening ceremony. Credit: Robert Silber / Northridge Hospital Medical Center