Inova Alexandria Hospital saw significant accomplishments in 2003 and 2004 promises more of the same.
That was the assessment of Kenneth Kozloff, hospital administrator and vice president, Inova Health System. "One of the biggest things we did was upgrade the Emergency Department in order to stay off re-route," he emphasized.
Re-route is what occurs when an emergency vehicle is diverted to another facility because the hospital closest to the occurrence is full and can not accommodate any other patients in emergency. It can pose a potential threat to the welfare of the patient.
"We added six bays in the Emergency Department in 2003. That brings us up to 37. This is particularly critical here because Alexandria's population is aging faster than Fairfax County and the elderly put a greater demand on services," Kozloff explained.
At the other end of the age spectrum the hospital created single rooms in the OB unit. They now have 34 such rooms. "When patients come into this unit they are assigned a private room prior to delivery. Now they have the same accommodation after delivery," he acknowledged.
"We also have made provisions for the possibility of the mother's significant other to stay overnight after the birth, if they choose," he said. "There have been a lot of changes in this area of the hospital."
ONE OF THE most emotionally charged improvements during 2003 was the opening of the Dedicated Stroke Unit last June. This new unit is not only saving lives, it is preventing long-term side effects of stroke which take a major toll not only on the victim but also the family, both in physical terms as well as financially, according to staff.
This facility is unlike any other in the area because it is solely for stroke victims, according to IAH.
"The City of Alexandria is the epicenter of stroke activity in Northern Virginia and that's why we are dedicated to finding the fastest and best way to fight strokes," said Beth Visioli, media relations specialist, IHS, during the unit's dedication.
Staffed in part by a team of specially trained Stroke Rapid Response Nurses (SRRN), the entire project was funded by a $250,000 pledge from TWIG, the hospital's ladies auxiliary. The unit is based on the principle that "the faster a patient gets to the Emergency Department, the faster doctors can administer clot-busting drugs that have been found to reduce death and side effects."
SRRN's receive 40 hours of hands-on and classroom education and must pass rigorous oral and written exams. Once certified they are able to respond at either a patient's bedside or in the Emergency Department within five to 10 minutes of a call, according to the hospital.
"When doctors get a call from a stroke nurse, they know they are getting accurate information and can trust the assessment," said Simon Fishman, MD, director, Stroke Clinical Effectiveness Team, IAH. "The nurses are a tremendous asset in the Emergency Department where every second counts."
As evidenced by this unit, TWIG is a primary fund-raising organization for the hospital. Last year they marked their 70th anniversary.
ALEXANDRIA NOTED that occasion by declaring May 2003 as "TWIG 70th Anniversary Month." The proclamation recognized "the contributions of TWIG over the past seven decades in enhancing every department within Alexandria Hospital."
Founded as the Junior Auxiliary of Alexandria Hospital by Mrs. Julian T. Burke, it became known as TWIG because a member once called the group the "little branch" that supports the hospital.
It has raised more than $1.5 million to fund a myriad hospital projects and services.
Other major programs initiated in 2003 include:
*Selection as a trial site to test the Eunoe COGNIShunt. It is a new procedure specifically designed to thwart the predatory onslaught of Alzheimer disease. The trials at IAH were conducted under the guidance of John W. Cochran, MD, FACP. "It's kind of like the spinal equivalent of a Jiffy Lube," Cochran explained. "By draining the spinal fluid it cleans it. After the procedure we have seen some improvement in intellectual capability." IAH is one of only 25 sites in the nation testing the device and procedure.
*A diagnostic test known as the 24-hour pH study with impendence. It measures the acidity in the esophagus over a 24 hour period. Impendence is a new technique that enables a more accurate diagnosis of both acid and non-acid reflux. Commonly called heartburn, severe acid reflux is actually a condition known as GERD, gastro-esophagal reflux disease, that can be life threatening. Treatment options range from lifestyle modifications to medication and/or surgery, depending on severity. IAH offers the complete spectrum from diagnosis to treatment in one facility.
*"Into Safe Arms." Launched on July 30, 2003, this program provides a way for reluctant mothers to give up their babies and still give them a chance to live, according to Beth Hoyas Lovain, founder, Into Safe Arms of Northern Virginia, previously known as Alexandria Safe Place for Newborns. Mothers who feel they can not care for their new born babies can bring them to the hospital. "The focus of the hospital is to provide the best medical care possible. We intend to provide quality care for the youngest here," Kozloff stated at the kickoff ceremony last year.
NEW EQUIPMENT and procedures introduced in 2003 included a new PET Scan, a CT Simulator, and the ability to perform Capsule Endoscopy. The latter enables internal diagnosis through the swallowing of a pill-size camera that allows the physician to view the entire intestinal tract. The CT Simulator has a three dimensional computer program that enables treatment to be directed to a specific tumor rather than an overall area, according to Visioli.
Although not a medical advancement, the opening of the new 700 space parking garage at the rear of the hospital, was a long-awaited asset to hospital visitors. Limited to hospital employees only, it has freed up the main visitor parking lot so it is no longer a motorized free-for-all. The new garage has three above-ground levels and one below.
ONE OF THE BIGGEST challenges IAH faced in 2003 occurred during Hurricane Isabel when the hospital was without water for 20 hours, according to Kozloff. "It was amazing how everyone rose to the occasion and worked together, not only here in the hospital but in the entire community surrounding us," he said.
The year ahead is scheduled to continue the many improvements at IAH, according to Kozloff. "We plan to triple the size of our perinatal diagnostic center from its present 800 square feet and add two new operating rooms," he said.
"We also plan to replace another CT Scan and add a new Linear Accelerator in the Cancer Unit. The addition of an IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) Unit in the Oncology Center will enable our physicians to apply radiation to bad cells only," Kozloff explained.
Although the hospital adopted a long-range strategic plan last year, "modification of the 2010 building program will be completed by Spring," Kozloff said. "We have started a new strategic planning process due to changes in Alexandria demographics and the hospital's financial analysis."
Kozloff acknowledged, "But for the philanthropy of the community we would not have been able to do many of things we have done. They have given in excess of $2 million for new equipment. We owe a great deal to Joseph Viar, chairman of our foundation board, and the entire board, for their leadership."
As an example, he cited the perinatal diagnostic center.
"We are the leading hospital for perinatal diagnostic care which provides treatment for both the mother and the baby. Suzanne Brock was a leading philanthropist in this endeavor. I thank the entire community for their support for all our primary service areas," Kozloff said.
"But none of this would be possible without the dedicated efforts of not only our physicians, both those we work with and collaborate with, but also our nurses, other medical staff, and all our 1,500 employees of this hospital," he added.
THAT STAFF dedication and expertise was exemplified in 2003 when two IAH nurses received national recognition for their career achievements. Kathleen Barry, RN, MHA, and Simone Gadoury, RN, were named Nurse Executive of the Year and Nurse Manager of the Year, respectively, by Nursing Spectrum, the publication for the nursing profession. Between them they have 47 years of nursing experience.
In recognition of its comprehensive excellence in oncology, IAH was awarded a three-year accreditation without contingency from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons.
It is the highest status award by the commission and achieved by only 27 percent of the hospitals that apply nationwide.
"We are looking forward to increasing our service to the community and continuing to provide the best medical care possible," Kozloff said.