Press Release

Anaheim Nurses to Hold Vigil Thursday To Protest Imminent Closure of NICU, Jeopardizing Infants

(See more photos here)

Nurses will hold a candlelight vigil Thursday to protest the planned closure of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Western Medical Center Anaheim. The hospital, owned by the for profit company Integrated Healthcare Holdings Inc (IHHI), plans to shutter the unit by March 29th.

Who:          RN’s, concerned community, patients and families

What:         Vigil/Protest

When:        7:00-8:00 PM  Thursday, March 22, 2012

Where:       Western Medical Center,1025 Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA

The NICU unit cares for about 10 to 20 critically ill babies each month. After the closure, sick babies will be transported to other facilities. The closure would result in the layoff of 15 specialized neonatal intensive care nurses, who collectively have over a hundred years of experience. Several RNs who staff the NICU have expressed concern that the hospital’s policy is short sighted and will leave infants in their first hours of life vulnerable to the worst possible outcomes.

“Often the most difficult, trying moments for a baby that requires intensive care is the first few minutes and hours when we struggle to stabilize the baby,” said NICU RN Marissa Gutierrez.  “We service lower-income patients and there are a lot of unexpected outcomes. This is highly skilled work.  Intubating the tiniest babies, properly starting an IV with only tiny IV’s to work with and diagnosing issues like meconium aspiration syndrome, takes training and experience.

“I am so scared for the babies that we care for.  That is why I am speaking out.”

Currently the hospital relies on NICU nurses not just for inpatient NICU stays but also as a nursery for “transition babies.”  Transition babies are essentially well, but exhibit some worrisome signs that need to be monitored.  For example, says Gutierrez, “many babies have small signs of respiratory distress. In most cases they end up fine. But sometimes things go south. Having trained neonatal nurses monitor these situations can save a life, or prevent long-term complications. “

The patients served by this unit are predominantly from poor and immigrant communities, with many covered by MediCAL.

“This company's decision to cut off our patients and our community from vital services is unconscionable," said RN Carrie Quimpo.

“The NICU nurses respond daily to assist when complications arise during birth," said RN Soon Lee. “Shame on IHHI for putting profits over ensuring that they are alive and healthy to meet those challenges. Who will be there in these situations when we are gone?”