Saint Louise investments mean better care

Erica Sanchez, left, Matthew Sanchez and Romie Cuellar look over

– Recent purchases of new equipment are aimed at improving the
care of patients at Saint Louise Regional Hospital, from the way
breast cancer is detected to how mothers sleep knowing their
newborn is safe.
By Lori Stuenkel

GILROY – Recent purchases of new equipment are aimed at improving the care of patients at Saint Louise Regional Hospital, from the way breast cancer is detected to how mothers sleep knowing their newborn is safe.

The hospital recently recognized the donors who make some of those purchases possible, looking forward to a future serving South Valley with top-notch equipment and, eventually, expanded services to serve an ever-growing population.

Recent additions

Saint Louise Regional Hospital made substantial purchases in state-of-the-art equipment during the past year, with donations wholly funding several of those.

Most significant is a machine that performs a “second look” at mammography films to detect possible breast cancer.

“This is brand new to our industry,” said Mary Nelson, manager of diagnostic imaging at the hospital. “A radiologist still reads the film, but this does a second reading so you not only have a human looking at it, but you have a computer reading your mammography films. And that’s huge because it’s not offered everywhere.”

A computer scans the film and flags unusual masses and calcifications in the breast that a radiologist might miss. The machine, called a CAD-X, was purchased in September for $225,000 from donations.

As of July, the hospital can once again monitor the spread of cancer using a machine that scans radio isotopes injected into patients to highlight cancerous growth. The old machine stopped working a year ago.

“It is a very good diagnostic tool,” Nelson said. “We were definitely missing that (tool) here in our department.”

The fight against cancer will also receive a helping hand from a new ultrasound machine used for guiding needles when performing biopsies.

“The quality of the images are just so incredible with the new machine,” Nelson said.

The isotope scanner cost $500,000 and was purchased using hospital funds, while the ultrasound machine cost $200,000 and was purchased with donations.

New mothers in Saint Louise can sleep soundly knowing that their newborns are protected by a revamped security system installed in May.

“It’s a very sophisticated mechanism for us to make sure the baby stays with the mom,” said Rita Garcia, director of facility services.

A wristband placed on the baby just after birth tracks its location in the ward, which is then displayed on a computer monitor. Should a wristband be cut off or a newborn taken too close to an exit, an alarm will sound.

Patient rooms received a face-lift last year thanks to a $20,000 grant from the hospital’s parent company, Daughters of Charity.

Saint Louise upgrades rooms “based upon the belief that the surroundings contribute to patient satisfaction and confidence,” Garcia said.

The hospital now boasts new cubicle curtains, window coverings, paint, bedside chairs, sleeper chairs for family members and television sets to display 20 new cable channels. New gurneys and waiting room furniture were also purchased.

Future projects

The hospital has just begun a two-year phase of replacing aging radiology equipment. Funds raised will first replace a $500,000 piece of X-ray equipment that allows physicians to view real-time body images.

A high-tech computerized medical chart system will be upgraded next year.

“We are one of the few facilities that is modernized to the point where our medical chart system is computerized,” Garcia said.

“The emergency room is an ongoing project,” said James Roosevelt, executive director and chief executive officer of the foundation. “We need to greatly expand it to meet the demands of services in south Santa Clara County.”

The eight-bed ER currently sees more than 23,000 patients a year – a large number for a very small department, Roosevelt said. The nearest ER outside Gilroy is in Hollister’s Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital.

“We would like to expand it to meet the capacity needs … (but) we don’t have an estimate of expansion yet,” Roosevelt said. “We are in the process of looking at the expansion right now. We haven’t started the planning phase, but we understand that it is a need.”

Future expansion will also include a third medical office building on the campus to house physicians, the breast care center currently located in the north medical office building and other services provided off site, Roosevelt said.

Donor wall

The hospital last month dedicated its donor wall, located in the front entrance, listing the names of individuals and businesses who have donated to the nonprofit, community hospital.

“It’s a way for the Saint Louise Regional Hospital Foundation to recognize the generous commitments of all our donors,” Roosevelt said.

The wall also includes the names of donors to Wheeler and South Valley hospitals, which both formerly occupied Saint Louise’s facility at 9400 No Name Uno.

“Because of the ownership changes in the past, it’s a way for (the foundation) to recognize the donors to health care in all south Santa Clara County,” Roosevelt said.

During the dedication ceremony Oct. 23, Ted Fox, the hospital’s chief executive officer, commended community donors for allowing the hospital to continue expanding programs, services and purchase state-of-the-art medical equipment.

“While the state of health care in California continues to be a challenging environment – with nearly two-thirds of hospitals losing money – I am proud to let you know that our hospital is viable, healthy, financially sound and proud to be a part of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and are committed to providing health care to our communities for the long haul,” Fox said. “It is only through our dedicated associates, physicians and volunteers which allow us to operate a successful and efficient hospital.”

The hospital, which opened in 1989 in Morgan Hill and moved to Gilroy 10 years later, has 93 beds, round-the-clock emergency care and a CALSTAR emergency helicopter transport.

Donors can give to the hospital’s unrestricted fund or earmark money for specific funds, such as breast care or community services.