March of Dimes holds conference on prematurity

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November is “Prematurity Awareness Month.” And prematurity is the No. 1 health concern for babies in Colorado and the leading cause of newborn death in the state.

Premature babies are a huge health care expense. Babies born 10 weeks before their 40-week gestation period spend an average of one month in a hospital, said Shelly Goodchild, the state director of the Colorado March of Dimes. It all adds up to an estimated national annual expense of $13.6 billion.

Goodchild said the initial hospital stay for a premature baby is estimated at $1 million. “It should be a concern for businesses if this is happening to one of your employees,” she said.

On Nov. 5, the March of Dimes in coordination with Denver’s Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital hosted a statewide conference on premature babies, and 180 health care providers attended. “We need to drive awareness about the impacts of prematurity – socially, emotionally and financially – to the system and the family,” Goodchild said. “And premature babies are likely to have life-long problems.”

Public perception is that doctors today can fix anything related to premature babies, Goodchild said. “People think the small babies are cute and wonderful – they don’t associate it with not being ready,” she said.

A Gallup survey concluded that only 36 percent of the public believe prematurity is a serious concern, Goodchild said. However, since 1981, she said the birth of premature babies has risen 29 percent. At risk are pregnant woman who smoke, women who do not have access to prenatal care and women who fall in certain age ranges on either end of the spectrum, Goodchild said.

“Coloradoans like to point to the high altitude but it’s a small variable,” she said.

The March of Dimes was founded in 1938 to address issues related to the health of babies. In Colorado, the March of Dimes funds $1.5 million in grants and operates its own healthy-baby programs. Visit www.marchofdimes.com or www.prematuritypuzzle.com for more information.

Another organization addresses prematurity

Newborn Hope Inc. is a Colorado nonprofit organization founded in 1973 to address prematurity, maternal, fetal and neonatal health care across the state. According to a Newborn Hope brochure, the organization has raised more than $3 million since its inception, contributing to a 50 percent decrease in infant mortality rate in Southern Colorado.

On Nov. 18 and Nov. 19, the Broadmoor International Center will host a luncheon, silent auction and fashion show, which includes adults and children. The two-day events are Newborn Hope’s 32nd fundraisers/luncheons. For more information, contact Nancy Ruppert at 597-8785 or e-mail reservations to nbhreservations@yahoo.com

Pikes Peak Hospice knows it’s not all about the beginning

Life is a continuum, with a beginning and an end. While the above organizations are there in the beginning, Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care is there at the end.

Since 1980, Pikes Peak Hospice has continued to serve El Paso County residents who have a life-limiting illness through donations, grants and fundraisers. Their biggest fundraiser is kicking off Nov. 27.

The hospice’s 20th 2004 Trees of Life celebration starts out with an outdoor community tree lighting ceremony at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 27 at the Pioneers Museum. Music will be provided by Phil Volan and a local bagpiper, who will honor a special red, white and blue tree in tribute to the local military.

“This is our largest fundraiser of the year,” said Peggy Marsh, events manager for Pikes Peak Hospice Foundation. “Our goal last year was $150,000, and we made it.”

Marsh said the first hospice tree lighting ceremony was held at the Chase Stone Center, where the Antlers Hilton is located. “We wanted to set it apart from the regular hubbub of the holiday season.”

The community can honor friends and loved ones or the memories of friends and loved ones through the tree lights. “A $20-dollar gift helps us light the light on the tree,” Marsh said. And behind every light is a story about someone.

The gift of a tree light allows Pikes Peak Hospice to provide special care to all those who are challenged with end-of-life decisions. The trees are on display through December. For more information about ringing in the season with the Trees of Life celebration, contact 633-3400 or visit www.pikespeakhospice.org.

Both Springs’ hospitals awarded for excellence

Penrose-St. Francis Health Care Services and Memorial Hospital were cited in October in Modern Healthcare magazine as two of the nation’s top-100 cardiovascular hospitals. Solucient, a national healthcare business intelligence company that provides tools and information to healthcare managers throughout the country, recognized both hospitals based on performances in areas such as risk-adjusted medical mortality, risk-adjusted surgical mortality, complications and wage and severity-adjusted average cost.

Among the study’s findings, according to a Penrose-St. Francis news release, top cardiovascular hospitals are “35 percent less likely to have post-operative infections and 20 percent less likely to have post-operative hemorrhage for patients who had coronary artery bypass grafting or percutaneous coronary interventions.”

The study also concluded that the average cardiovascular-related costs were 13 percent lower in the benchmark hospitals. And there were higher survivor rates among patients who underwent coronary bypass procedures.

Memorial Hospital Associate Administrator of Cardiovascular Donna Lastra said, “All of our staff take these quality measures very seriously and are committed to offering the best, most sensitive patient care possible.”

Rick O’Connell, the president and chief executive officer of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, said, “This honor is a wonderful salute to our amazing cardiovascular medical staff. They have outstanding outcomes and unparalleled skills.”

Penrose was named as a top-100 hospital earlier this year by Solucient.

Memorial Hospital also has received a 2004/2005 Consumer Choice Award from the National Research Corp., which measures health provider performances. The research is based on a survey of more than 140,000 households that represent 400,000 consumers in the United States. Memorial is among 187 out of 3,000 nationwide health care facilities recognized.

New board members for Memorial

The Springs City Council has appointed Jerry Smith, Dr. Don Gazibara, Arlene Stein and Linda Halbouty to Memorial Hospital’s board of directors.

Smith is the president and chief executive officer of Pikes Peak United Way. Gazibara is a retired physician who served as Memorial’s chief of staff in 1989. Stein has a background in nursing with seven years as the clinical manager and acute care coordinator for Memorial Hospital. Halbouty is a real estate agent and the current president of the Broadmoor Resort Community Home Owners Association.

UCCS offering online non-degree health courses

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is offering health care courses via the Internet that are designed for people seeking career changes, specialized training or advanced training and certifications. The courses are self-paced, and the average course time is about 90 days. UCCS officials are working with Gatlin Educational Services, a company that offers Web-based education through online instructor support.

For more information, contact Bill Crouch at 262-4651 or e-mail wcrouch@uccs.edu

Osteopathic Foundation welcomes new doctor

Monica Hassett, D.O. joined the staff of the Colorado Springs Osteopathic Foundation’s Family Medicine Center. Hassett completed an internship at Community Health Center of Branch County in Coldwater, Mich., and a residency at the foundation. She is board certified in family practice, specializing in women’s health and geriatric medicine.

The Osteopathic medical center provides primary medical care for adults, specializing in ages 65 and older.

Health care tidbit of the week

According to a Wall Street Journal article, of the 45 million uninsured in the United States, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 15 million reside in households with incomes in excess of $50,000. Of the 15 million, 7.6 million lived in households with incomes over $75,000.