When we first found out about our baby’s HLHS diagnosis, we were referred to UCLA for fetal/pediatric cardiology. Given the resources through AJ’s job and my neurotic need to research every single little thing, we wanted to also check out CHLA. I searched endlessly for a direct comparison of UCLA vs. CHLA and couldn’t find anything concise. So, I have put together this list of pros and cons in my experience thus far with both programs. I hope this information is useful to anyone who might be in the same situation as us and is trying to determine the best route of care for their baby.
To preface, we were more than impressed with both hospitals. If we lived an area with only one of these hospitals, we would not question either. But, since both are local to us, we felt it important to weigh our options. We experienced the following at both hospitals:
- Consultations with both the cardiologist and surgeon (at UCLA – Dr. Sklansky and Dr. Reemtsen; at CHLA, Dr. Pruetz and Dr. Starnes)
- Tours of the various ICUs and dedicated cardiology areas
- Direct phone and email access to the doctors
- Coordination and follow-up with a coordinating nurse (no “you should call this person, contact that person”)
- People at each hospital only had good things to say about the people at the other hospital
- Ranked #7 for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery nationally by US News + World Report. Specific stats and info here.
- Entire floor of the hospital dedicated to pediatric cardiology, including a dedicated CTIUC (Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit). More info here.
- ICU allows two visitors at a time plus both parents (4 total) with private rooms and bathrooms
- An ultrasound tech scanned me while the doctor watched in another room. However, the doctor did scan me for a few minutes towards the end for shots that the tech wasn’t able to clearly capture.
- Hospital does not have L&D unit and must deliver at hospital next door. That hospital is not glamorous by any means. A detached L&D means transfer time that would not be relevant at UCLA. However, CHLA does have a program designed especially for babies they’re expecting at that hospital called the Institute of Maternal Fetal Health.
- Doctor performs entire scan
- Hospital has L&D and pediatric cardiology unit in the same building and can deliver on the same floor if necessary. Their L&D unit is luxurious and moms are given a private suite post-delivery.
- Dr. Sklansky, Director of Pediatric Cardiology, and Dr. Reemtsen, pediatric heart surgeon, are both from CHLA
- The actual surgeon does rounds in the CICU (versus CHLA where I didn’t gather that the actual surgeon visits every day)
- I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Sklansky – it’s hard to find a doctor who is exceptionally qualified, but also humble. He also mentioned believing in miracles. He was a perfect balance of science and faith and was extraordinarily compassionate.
- Ranked #26 for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery nationally by US News + World Report. Specific stats and info here. (Overall, this is a great rating and wouldn’t be a con if CHLA wasn’t down the street.)
- Only 6 CICU beds and a small amount of PICU beds. Babies are moved to regular NICU quickly. NICU does not have private rooms, just curtain separation.
- ICUs allow only two visitors at a time including parents (2 total)
OUR DECISION. We have decided to move forward with CHLA. Our experience at UCLA exceeded our expectations and we really, really liked Dr. Sklansky. However, we feel the aftercare at CHLA will be a bit stronger given their dedication strictly to CTICU babies. It’s typical that success rates are higher when procedures are done in a higher volume, so we are trusting the data on this one.