In the 1960’s, hospitals in the Long Beach area only had pediatric units that were primarily devoted to surgery. At that time, children under 13 in California were not allowed to go into a hospital and visit ill parents or siblings, nor were any family members allowed in the hospital’s nursery. Dr. Harry Orme, the city’s first pediatric cardiologist, learned about an innovative concept called “patient and family centered care” while traveling.
He fell in love with the idea — and as a physician himself — he knew that families, including siblings, were a key part to a patient’s recovery. He began to work toward the establishment of a children’s hospital in Long Beach that would embody the patient and family centered care philosophy and change the culture of pediatric health care.
To help fund the construction, Dr. Orme enlisted the support of a successful Long Beach contractor, Earl B. Miller and his wife, Loraine H. With a generous donation by the Miller family and the community, the development of the new children’s hospital began. The planning and construction went into the works and the city of Long Beach and its community members were in full support. Due to the overwhelming support of Long Beach’s philanthropic community, the hospital was completely paid for by the time it opened.
Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach opened in 1970, with many innovative patient and family centered care features, such as patient rooms to accommodate a parent’s overnight stay. Miller Children’s opened with 65 active pediatric physicians and surgeons along with services such as an expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Program (NICU), cleft palate program, allergy, ear, nose and throat, endocrine, urology and general surgery.
In the 1980’s, an immunology department, pediatric psychiatry, pediatric genetics and pediatric GI services were added. During the 1990’s, the creation of “carelines” allowed different specialty groups to meet and work on best practices. The concept of “outpatient care” also was added to Miller Children’s at this time with the opening of an Outpatient Surgery Center and the Tichner Lowman Clinic. Important supportive care and specialty care elements were added such as a pediatric rehabilitation program, children’s protective services, pediatric dentistry and behavioral and developmental care, through the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center.
In 2003, women’s health care became part of Miller Children’s & Women's Hospital Long Beach when it brought women’s services (maternity care) under its license. The BirthCare Center treats babies and women of all ages through its many services. More than 6,000 babies were born at the hospital in 2004, up 10 percent from 2003, as some of the area’s hospitals closed their maternity units because they were unprofitable. The BirthCare Center is on the road to Baby-Friendly designation and has made several operational changes to promote bonding between mother, baby and partner in care. True to the patient and family centered care approach, Miller Children’s takes care of the mother, mothers in labor, newborn babies and children up to 21-years-of-age.
The BirthCare Center also houses a high-risk perinatal special care unit that takes care of expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancies; those women hospitalized prior to giving birth. If a baby needs to go to the NICU immediately after birth, they care taken just down the hall rather than needing to be transported to another hospital. Miller Children’s 93-bed NICU cares for more than 1,400 babies a year, more than any other hospital in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.
As the years continued, major changes including sub-specialization of pediatrics and the increase in regionalization allowed Miller Children’s to draw patients from outside the local community — and become a regional destination for specialized pediatric care. Miller Children’s has grown in size, scope of services and medical and nursing strength. It is the only trauma center for children in the region and has expanded outpatient specialty care to satellite locations, and covering more than 40 pediatric
In 2009, the Miller Children’s Pavilion opened housing an expanded NICU, imaging and surgery centers, as well as an inpatient hematology/oncology unit. The Pediatric Surgical Center includes seven operating rooms sized just for kids and designed to reduce stress and anxiety often associated with surgery for children and their parents. The NICU offers individual patient bays and private family areas. The hematology/oncology unit provides a dedicated playroom for kids with childhood cancer and blood disorders, which gives them a chance to bond with other children in a similar situation.
In order to meet the growing needs of the community, Miller Children’s opened an outpatient satellite center in Torrance in 2009. In 2010, another location opened in Fountain Valley. Most recently, in 2016, the Children’s Specialty Center opened in Irvine – expanding Miller Children’s reach in South Orange County.
In 2011, the Cherese Mari Laulhere Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) began its expansion with the first of three pods opening in 2016. The North Pod was renovated with the help of parent input and features eight private patient rooms complete with a private bathroom and comfortable pull-out bed for a parent who chooses to stay the night with their child. The entire unit was built with evidence-based design to prevent infection, and each patient room has an adjacent nurse station with a window that allows nurses to check in on patients while working – keeping Dr. Orme’s vision in mind of patient and family centered care. The West Pod opened in 2017 and is dedicated to pediatric cardiovascular patients. The East Pod will be the last to open and is set to be ready in Summer 2017.
In 2016, Miller Children’s NICU opened the 36-bed Small Baby Program – the largest in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The Small Baby Program is designed to care for the tiniest premature infants, often weighing less than 2 lbs., in a serene environment that mimics their mother’s womb. This atmosphere is created with a cradling confinement to mimic the womb with soft pressure boundaries and cushioning gel packs to mimic the sensations of the womb.
Miller Children’s stands out in the country, as well as in the region. In the United States, there are less than 70 free-standing children’s hospitals, including Miller Children’s, that provide teaching, research and comprehensive pediatric care. Miller Children’s is recognized as one of the eight free-standing children’s hospitals in California and still incorporates patient and family centered care, spiritual healing and mind-body connection into its medical and surgical interventions, true to the vision of Dr. Orme when he embarked on building the hospital nearly 50 years ago.
Miller Children’s continues to grow to meet increasing health care needs of the community’s young patients. Miller Children’s seeks to provide a kid-friendly environment that strips away the traditional hospital look and feel and replaces it with vibrant welcoming colors.