Courtesy of Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital:
The Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital (HHMH) Women’s Center opened five years ago this December, making a splash with its visionary melding of modern technology and comfort. Here, new mothers give birth in a peaceful, hotel-like atmosphere that promotes parent-child bonding, while award-winning doctors and nurses support the full continuum of women’s healthcare and wellness.
In 2019, the Women’s Center will begin digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) for breast cancer screening and bring aboard a new pediatric hospitalist group, continuing to advance women’s healthcare.
Community Calls for a Transformation
HHMH formerly had just two delivery rooms, shared postpartum rooms, and surgery and recovery in different buildings altogether. With San Benito County growing rapidly, the community overwhelmingly passed Bond Measure L in 2005, aimed at udpating the hospital and building the Women’s Center.
Today, the Women’s Center offers 13 spacious birthing suites with recessed lighting, dark-wood paneling, and large, private-bathrooms. Essential medical equipment is artfully concealed until needed, and new babies are delivered, cleaned, assessed, and monitored in the room. Each room is equipped with delivery lights, an adjustable bed, and a baby warmer with all the necessary resuscitative equipment.
The Women’s Center also has its own modern surgical suite for performing emergency surgical procedures, adding a great measure of safety to patient care. A recovery room adjacent to the OR enables mothers to be united with their newborns with skin-to-skin contact as quickly as possible after a surgery such as a C-section, nearly eliminating the need for moms and babies to be separated.
Patients at HHMH receive special care such as on-call massages by a certified massage therapist and celebratory meals during their stay. And the support doesn’t stop when mothers leave the hospital. HHMH offers free nursing mother’s support classes in the Center’s beautiful resource library. Led by a board-certified lactation consultant, the group welcomes all nursing moms in the community.
The second floor of the Women’s Center is home to the Women’s Diagnostic Imaging Center, offering some of the most technologically advanced diagnostic equipment available for women’s breast health. The Imaging Center currently performs screening and diagnostic digital mammography, 3-D and 4-D automated breast ultrasound, cyst aspiration, ultrasound-guided and stereotactic-guided breast biopsies, wire localization for breast surgery, bone density Dexa scanning, and echocardiography.
Award-Winning Doctors and Nurses
An ultra-modern facility was a godsend for the women of San Benito County, but without the skill and compassion of the doctors and nurses at the Women’s Center, it might just have been a fancy building. Obstetrician Ralph Armstrong, DO, started working at HHMH in August 2005 and was fortunate enough to have input into the design and construction of the Women’s Center. He also happens to be the OB who delivered the very first baby in the center.
Armstrong is justifiably proud of the improvements. “When you walk into one of our new birthing rooms it looks like a hotel,” says Armstrong. “The hospital environment is deemphasized to create the most soothing and supportive experience.”
Armstrong has witnessed a transformation in both the hospital and the community since he delivered the first baby here in 2013. “Having the Women’s Center has transformed obstetrical care in Hollister,” says Armstrong.
HHMH’s labor and deliver nurses share in Armstrong’s enthusiasm for how the Women’s Center has improved the entire birth experience. “It’s so much better for the patients and for those of us taking care of them,” says Linda Bedolla, RN, an HHMH nurse since 2009.
Bedolla is just one of the many nurses who call San Benito County their home and feel a sense of pride in providing the highest level of healthcare to women in their own community. “All the nurses live in the community and this is our hospital,” said Bedolla. “Our patients are people we will see months or years later in town, we’ll see the kids grow up.”
For nurses, says Bedolla, Central Fetal Monitoring has made the biggest positive impact on their work and the labor and birth experience. Nurses can now monitor fetal strips from outside patient rooms, allowing patients more privacy with their newborn and uninterrupted rest. Portable monitors allow mothers in labor to walk around and shower. Doctors, too, can monitor fetal heart rates offsite from their smart devices.
Both the doctors and nurses of the labor and delivery department have for five consecutive years been awarded a BETA Award for Excellence from the BETA Healthcare Group. The award is given to hospitals that demonstrate 100% compliance with all elements the “Quest for Zero” obstetrical safety program whose goal is to promote best practice in care delivery to moms and babies. The program requires training and participation of the entire department.
Not surprisingly, patient safety scores and the level of patient satisfaction have soared since HHMH’s Women’s Center opened. In Fall of 2018, the Leapfrog Group—an independent, national nonprofit health care ratings organization—awarded HHMH with an “A” grade for patient safety. The grade recognizes HHMH’s commitment to exceptional patient safety and meeting the highest quality and safety standards. Leapfrog’s Hospital Safety Grade rates how well hospitals protect patients from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.
A New Standard of Care for Breast Imaging
Critical to women’s healthcare moving forward will be the upgrade to digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) within the year at the Women’s Diagnostic Imaging Center mammography unit. DBT is an advanced form of mammography that creates 3-D images of the breasts, and it is quickly becoming the standard of care for breast cancer screening. DBT can be used to screen for early signs of breast cancer in women with no symptoms, or as a diagnostic tool for women that are having breast cancer symptoms.
Radiologist Ka-Wah Tung, MD, has worked in the tri-county area since 2015 and at the Women’s Diagnostic Imaging Center for the last 2-1/2 years. He and his fellow radiologists are well attuned to the range of medical and emotional factors associated with breast cancer screening.
Tung understands that returning for additional imaging of the breasts can be emotionally charged. “Everyone assumes the worst when they are recalled back from a routine screening mammogram,” says Tung. “DBT has been shown to decrease overall recall rate, without a decrease in cancer detection rate.”
With standard 2-D mammography, normal tissues superimposed on each other can appear abnormal. “DBT allows the radiologist to evaluate the breast tissue in 3-D, reducing the number of women called back for additional diagnostic evaluation of these asymmetries that often turn out to be benign overlapping tissue,” says Tung.
Radiologists at the Imaging Center will personally call the primary care physicians of patients whose scans show concerning findings and the need for biopsy, and the doctors talk one-on-one with those patients whose images indicate benign findings to reassure them. “I treat every patient like family,” Tung says, noting that getting a sense of whether someone is prepared to take on breast cancer is a crucial skill for a radiologist.
Partnership with Pediatrix Medical Group
Another step forward for the Women’s Center in 2019 will be a partnership with Pediatrix Medical Group of California, a nationally renowned pediatric medical group that also provides services to Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose. Pediatrix will provide highly trained hospital-based pediatric hospitalists to assist with high-risk newborn deliveries, help determine when a newborn requires transport out for critical care, support the care of well newborns in the nursery, and care for inpatient children and teens.
Pediatric hospitalists will also be on hand to provide onsite consultative services to attending medical staff and ER physicians and to help stabilize patients in emergency situations. The partnership will bring experience and vital support to both the Women’s Center and ER, adding yet another essential healthcare service to San Benito County.