Pulse Oximetry Law Will Save Lives

By Ernest G. Leva, MD, FAAP

Nothing aches like having to watch the suffering of a newborn child. The pain as a parent, as a sibling, even as an attending physician, defies description. When something simple can be done that averts that kind of suffering, it needs to occur.

That is why I am extremely heartened by Governor Christie and the Legislature’s recent swift efforts to enact A3744/S2752, the first such law in the nation that requires that all newborns, prior to their release from a hospital, must undergo monitoring by pulse oximetry in order to screen for possible cardiac problems that may have gone unnoticed during other tests.

Pulse oximetry has been a simple, effective means of detecting the oxygenation of a patient’s blood supply since it made its debut in American hospitals in the early 1980s. Doctors have, for years, relied upon its readings to ascertain the health and integrity of their patients’ cardiovascular and pulmonary systems.

It is that ‘something simple’ that will prevent the suffering of countless loved ones, for their newborn’s condition will be detected and treated, and they will all live to build a happy, healthy future together. The implementation of this basic and time-tested diagnostic tool on all newborns will make all the difference in the world for these infants and their families.

This is an important step forward in newborn hospital care, and it is a step forward I hope to see taken swiftly by other states and, one day, the nation. Some look at what Governor Christie signed and see a law; I look, and I see lives—lives saved, and lives improved by the simple act of signing legislation into law.

I applaud this exceptional step forward—and I urge Governor Christie and our Legislature to make it one of many needed steps forward in the improvement of hospital care for newborn and pediatric patients. Alterations to pediatric emergency department regulations; the ability to have ‘report cards’ for New Jersey’s emergency departments as we do for New Jersey’s schools; these are just two of many changes needed to ensure that New Jersey’s children continue to receive the nation’s best hospital care. We have made progress, but let us turn that progress into momentum, and continue to move healthcare forward for the citizenry of New Jersey.

Ernest G. Leva, MD, FAAP is an associate professor of pediatrics at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the director of the medical school’s Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

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