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Hospital closing transitional care unit

• Spokeswoman says last day for TCU is June 5.

Posted: May 7, 2008 2:32 a.m.
Updated: July 8, 2008 5:02 a.m.
The transitional care unit at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital is scheduled to close by June 5, a hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The 27-bed unit that houses mostly seniors recovering from their hospital stay will be converted to a 27-bed general medical surgical unit by the end of summer.

Hospital officials said the demand for regular hospital beds is higher than the demand for TCU beds.

"Our goal is to make sure we're definitely caring for the sickest patients in the Santa Clarita Valley during their time of crisis," hospital spokeswoman Andie Bogdan said.

Hospital staff will make the modifications and inspections for the new MedSurg 5 unit in June and July and it is scheduled to open by the end of August.

"Securing a license for 27 more hospital beds allows Henry Mayo to serve more people, including seniors," hospital CEO Roger Seaver said in a statement.

The unit averages about 13 patients at a time and those patients typically stay 10 to 11 days.

Despite the TCU closure, Bogdan said the hospital will continue to provide hospice care services on site through an independent contractor. Newhall Memorial plans to retain the TCU employees for work elsewhere in the hospital.

"We're looking forward to working in the new MS5 unit, particularly because we know how desperately these hospital beds are needed," said Susan Romero, R.N., who serves as director of the TCU. "Our ER has too many patients waiting for a hospital bed and that's not fair to them, nor is it the best care we are capable of giving. They need to be on a hospital nursing unit, not in ‘holding.'"

The shortage in hospital beds inevitably trickles down to the emergency room, Bogdan said.

"(In March), we had 43 inpatients who never got to a hospital nursing unit at all because there was no hospital bed available, yet there were empty beds in the TCU," Bogdan said. "Their entire hospital stay, overnight, was in the ER on a gurney ... The ones in the ER are the ones that are suffering the most."

Although many of those patients were waiting for telemetry beds, which have equipment that continuously monitors vital signs, adding the regular acute care beds to the hospital will help patients "down the continuum of care."

Bogdan said the hospital's case management and social services staff will coordinate with other skilled nursing facilities. The Santa Clarita Valley Convalescent Hospital in Newhall is the only skilled nursing facility in the Santa Clarita Valley. Other facilities are in the San Fernando Valley.

In recent years, talk of closing the TCU has drawn the ire of local seniors and senior advocates, who have claimed its closure will have a devastating effect.

The sidewalks in front of the hospital were the sight of several protests by seniors toting brightly colored signs emblazoned with slogans such as, "don't fail the frail," "don't ration your compassion," and "not."

Dr. Gene Dorio, a geriatrics specialist who treats patients at Newhall Memorial, and opponent of the TCU closure, said the closure will be "detrimental" to local seniors suffering from serious health problems.

"It will disrupt the senior health care infrastructure of this community," he said. "They will once again have to go down to the San Fernando Valley. (Patients) will leave this valley, leave their families, leave their caregivers and go to another valley to get their care."


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