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Preparing to care for seniors

As an adjunct to my series on health care issues, I have a report on the new Jacobs Medical Center under construction on the UC San Diego Health System campus at a cost of $839 million.

The ten-story structure is three hospitals in one connected to the Thornton Hospital on the mesa at the east side of the UCSD campus. The specialty fields of medicine for the new facility are advanced surgery, cancer care and women with infants. A mock-up exhibit of the three specialty sites is open for orientation tours during construction.

I was impressed on my recent visit to see the site for state-of-the-art treatment of specific health remedies. The unit for women and infants provides comfortable space for family members as well as the equipment for handling an infant, especially those born under difficult circumstances.

The cancer care unit likewise provides pleasant space for family members to stay with the patient in a well-equipped room. The mock-up of a full surgery room provides creative monitoring screens, special lighting and the latest body-scanning apparatus to facilitate minimally invasive surgery.

The operating room features robotic surgical equipment that can be operated from monitor screens several feet away from the patient. In just 1½ years, 4,000 doctors nationwide have been trained in this new procedure.

Paul Viviano, CEO of UCSD Health System and associate vice chancellor of UCSD Health Sciences, welcomed the tour group with an overview of the Jacobs Medical Center program under the banner “Future of Care.” His efficient staff took small groups through the mock-up complex to explain the innovative features set up exactly as each space will appear in the new hospital.

The latest addition to the UCSD academic health system will create 600 new jobs in the highest level of quality care when it opens in 2016 with 245 beds, all in private rooms.

Special appreciation is due to Irwin and Joan Jacobs for their generous lead gift to build this facility for the community. Many of its focused features of health care are directed to the needs of the elderly. Demographics for the San Diego region predict a substantial growth in seniors over age 75.

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob (no relation) reports that by 2030 this generation will triple, a population shift that will test the county’s health care policies and ability to serve seniors. Jacob said she would like to say we are prepared, but we are not.

Cuts in state funding are leading causes of decreases in elderly advocacy and increasing crimes against seniors in assisted living facilities. Already, investigations in neglect and abuse in care facilities show lack of help for dependent residents in state-licensed facilities.

Besides the new Jacobs Medical Center addition, UCSD has received substantial research grants in health care over the 2013-14 academic year. The largest was from AstraZeneca HealthCare of $4.32 million funds for a clinical study of lymphocytic leukemia. Others are $606,000 from the National Institute of Heart, Lung and Blood, and $544,000 from the National Eye Institute, all to improve care for degenerative diseases affecting the elderly.

Ford is a freelance writer in San Diego. He can be reached at johnpatrick.ford@sddt.com

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