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Tackling Hypothermia in Very Low Birth Weight Infants Rate Reduced from 44 percent in 2006 to Zero percent in 2011

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) has reduced the rate of hypothermia in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants from a baseline of 44 percent in early 2006, to zero percent in January 2009. With ongoing staff education and feedback, the rate in 2011 remained at zero percent. Because hypothermia is a serious medical issue in infants less than 3 pounds, a team of medical professionals at the medical center decided to tackle the issue by developing new guidelines to standardize, regulate and manage these babies’ temperatures.
For SCVMC’s innovations to eliminate hypothermia in VLBW infants they were awarded an honorable mention in the 2012 Gage Award category of Improving Quality and Patient Safety.
“Preventing hypothermia in very small babies can be challenging, but it definitely saves lives,” said Dr. Balaji Govindaswami, Chief of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, SCVMC. “Very premature babies lose heat extremely quickly after birth through their paper-thin skin, and cooling risks bleeding into the brain. We’ve had great success with our approach and are doing better than California and national averages.”
The thermoregulation guidelines for standardizing, regulating and managing infants’ temperatures includes; a nurse dedicated to monitoring an infants temperature every five minutes from the baby’s delivery until admission to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord for 60 seconds; and using a heating pad, polyethylene blanket and a hat while the baby is being medically assessed.
“We are proud and honored to receive this national recognition,” commented Steve Harris, Chair of the Pediatric Department at SCVMC. “Our standardized approach came about with the NICU collaborating with Nursing, Obstetrics and Anesthesiology. It feels great to be acknowledged for this work and the innovative strategies we use to improve the care of some of our most vulnerable patients.”
“Santa Clara Valley’s work to reduce hypothermia in vulnerable infants is a major step toward decreasing infection and mortality among this patient population,” said NAPH President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH. “Santa Clara offers a clear example of the innovation coming out of the safety net and the value NAPH members have as leaders and mentors for all of health care.”
SCVMC received this award at the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (NAPH) annual conference on June 21st, in San Francisco. The NAPH Gage Awards Program recognizes pubic hospitals for innovations to improve community health and save money, and can be used by other public hospitals across the country.

About Santa Clara Valley Medical Center
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s range of services, national recognition and commitment to quality care make it an indispensable community resource. Founded in 1876, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) provides superior inpatient and outpatient care with a full range of services including regional specialty services for spinal cord and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation, burn trauma care, high-risk pregnancy and neonatal care, as well as the highest level of trauma services. Operated by the County of Santa Clara, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center is “Dedicated to the health of the whole community.”
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About the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (NAPH)
NAPH represents the nation’s safety net hospitals and health systems, which provide high volumes of care to low-income individuals. These facilities offer high-quality health services for all patients, including the uninsured and underinsured, regardless of ability to pay. In addition to helping ensure access to health care for all Americans, safety net hospitals provide many essential communitywide services, such as primary care, trauma care, and neonatal intensive care. Safety net hospitals also train many of America’s doctors, nurses, and other health care providers. Since its inception in 1980, NAPH has cultivated a strong presence on Capitol Hill, with the executive branch, and in many state capitols. NAPH advocates on behalf of its members on such issues as Medicaid, Medicare, and access to health care services for vulnerable populations. For more information, visit

Media Contac: Joy Alexiou, Public Information Officer valley Health and Hospital System 408-595-2936 (cell) or 408-885-4164 (office)
Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012