Norwalk’s healthy solutions
By Deborah DiSesa Hirsch
Aug 29, 2008 - 1:18:03 AM
Pediatric excellence and around-the-clock care
is right in our backyard, for our kids’ sake
If you’re a kid living in Fairfield County, you’re in luck. If you’re a parent, you’re even luckier. Norwalk is home to a network of pediatricians and specialists who provide the most up-to-date care for pediatric illnesses and injuries.
“Norwalk provides a broad spectrum of medical services and access to experienced, well-trained physicians and specialists who are tops in their fields,” says Dr. Minas Lialios, a Norwalk native and pediatrician who’s practiced for over 20 years, and is currently with Park Street Pediatrics in New Canaan. “We have a hospital system which is constantly implementing new and different services to meet the health care needs of Norwalk children today and Norwalk Hospital is the only community hospital in the state with 24-7, 365-day-a-year coverage by a board-certified neonatologist.”
No one wants to have a baby too early, but if you do, the hospital is ready and waiting to bring that premature infant to maturity. “Think about that – with that first breath taken in the delivery room, our babies receive care and monitoring by a newborn specialist who will be by their bedside,” says Dr. Lialios. “What a wonderful plus for a new parent to know that they have a specialist with them at such a special, but stressful, time of their lives.”
In addition, Norwalk Hospital has a pediatric hospitalist program that offers doctors who follow a patient from admission right through discharge. The hospitalists are on staff at the hospital around the clock and coordinate with patients’ private practice pediatricians as needed, according to Vicki Smetak, M.D., director of the Pediatric Hospital Program at Norwalk Hospital. Dr. Smetak was chosen for this position because of her experience in pediatric critical care.
“Other hospitals in the area have hospitalists but our offering is the most robust,” says Dr. Smetak, who practices medicine as well as administers the program. “They may have a rotating staff of people who are on call but we have two full-time hospitalists and physicians with subspecialities who rotate with us right here on the premises. Our only job is to follow patients through the system.”
Dr. Smetak, one of the two full-time hospitalists, said she decided to become one after her second child was born, because the hours are rigid – 8 to 5 on weekdays. “I got tired of being beeped at one a.m.,” she says. She still gets called occasionally about cases, but Dr. Janet Karpiak, the other full-time hospitalist, is on after hours on weekdays. Weekends are covered by other doctors.
Dr. Smetak runs the pediatric program, but the other doctors cover adult patients.
“Private pediatricians are busy,” says Smetak. “This way we can call them and say, ‘Johnny’s been admitted, I’ll go down and take care of him and coordinate with you.’ I really like to practice within the hospital, working with acutely ill patients.”
Hospitalists can refer patients to cardiologists, psychiatrists, or any specialist needed. “We do all the follow-up,” she says.
Private pediatricians sign over their patients to the hospitalists if they need to be hospitalized. A majority of Norwalk pediatricians and some in Stamford have signed up for the program. Is there ever a sense of stepping on toes? “No,” says Smetak. “In fact, I was pleasantly surprised, but the pediatricians in private practice are actually glad we’re overseeing their patients. We have our eyes and ears on every kid.”
Dr. Lialios says the hospitalist program, which began just last year, is another example of Norwalk Hospital’s commitment to being in the forefront of children’s health. “In Dr. Smetak, the hospital found someone who excels in both the art and science of medicine,” he says.
The typical day of a hospitalist can vary widely. Set a broken leg at 10 am. Diagnose pneumonia at 1 pm. Consult on patients who have gone through surgery, like appendectomies or tonsillectomies.
“The continuity is what makes this program so beneficial to patients. I’m here five days a week. It’s better overall for patient care and safety,” says Dr. Smetak.
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