Patient-Centered Care

Local Carbon Monoxide Leak: The Story Behind the Headline

On Thursday, November 8, 2012, KCBS News’ Holly Quan reported on the evacuation of a Burlingame hotel due to a carbon monoxide leak. The news report offers details of the scene and actions of the first responders. But who notified the first responders? That’s the Mills-Peninsula part of this story.

A patient was brought to the Mills-Peninsula Emergency Department from the Embassy Suites Hotel, where he had checked in after arriving at the San Francisco Airport. In the ER, the patient was unresponsive and showed symptoms of a possible stroke or aneurysm. (The identity of the patient is private and protected by HIPAA.)

Drs. Lim and Molander were interviewed by ABC TV’s Reporter Vic Lee and Cameraman Chris Hewett.

The ER team ordered a diagnostic CT scan of the patient which was sent to Greg Lim, M.D., chair of radiology at Mills-Peninsula.

“I was working that night and read the scans for the patient,” Dr. Lim explains. “A specific area of the brain was abnormal – it was symmetrically shaped, which is not consistent with stroke or aneurysm. I’d only ever seen a teaching case of carbon monoxide poisoning but the scan looked exactly as I remembered it from the lecture. I went out on a limb and diagnosed it as carbon monoxide poisoning, which was confirmed by my ER colleagues.”

It was Karin Molander, M.D., the Mills-Peninsula ER physician on this case, and AMR paramedic Lon Adams who alerted the Fire Department to the carbon monoxide risk.

“I felt like I was in an episode of the TV show ‘House,’” said Dr. Molander. “It took the combined minds of many people to figure out this uncommon case and act for the patient and the community.”

The Fire Department ordered the immediate evacuation of about 500 guests at the Embassy Suites Hotel then discovered the carbon monoxide leak was coming from a defective boiler. According to the Fire Department, the building was ventilated and guests were let back in the hotel around dawn.

The out-of-the-box thinking and quick reaction by radiology and ER doctors protected the lives of the 500 guests and employees at the hotel.

“As radiologists, often times we do our work in quiet dark rooms and people don’t recognize the big impact we have on public safety and patient care,” said Dr. Lim.

Mills-Peninsula serves as the major receiving hospital for most emergencies on the Peninsula and is the official destination for emergencies at the San Francisco International Airport. On an average day, this award-winning Emergency Department team treats more than 115 patients, administering critical care for stroke, heart attack, car accidents, sports injuries, poisoning – or any medical or psychiatric emergency.

“I’m very happy that more people weren’t hurt,” Dr. Lim said. “I grew up in this area and went to San Mateo High School. I moved back from Southern California because I wanted to take care of my family, friends and neighbors.”

Patient-Centered Care: New Hospital Built to Focus on Patient & Family Experience

High-Tech and Environment Support Healing

Mills-Peninsula Health Services  designed and built the new hospital to be a healing environment, always focused on patients and their families. Several medical advancements enhance the efficiency of this hospital that opened on May 15, 2011.

“We’re not looking at just the clinical side of healing, but also the emotional side,” said Zani Weber, vice president of the patient experience. “It’s a more holistic way of caring for people.”


All Private Rooms

The new rooms were purposefully designed to provide a familiar, peaceful environment where people can feel safe, calm and comfortable, which promotes healing, Weber said. All 241 beds are in private rooms, each with natural light from a window that faces outside the hospital or to an inner courtyard garden.

“It’s airy, quiet and restful,” she said. “Patients aren’t sharing a room with a stranger at a time that is already very stressful for them and their family.”

Nursing staff also has the ability to provide highly individualized care in private rooms. Patients can choose when they want showers and meals. Food is selected from a menu, cooked to order and served hot to the bedside on request. Patient-only designated elevators ensure additional privacy.

There are also four healing gardens where sunshine and greenery are accessible without ever leaving the hospital.

No More Visiting Hours

Private rooms make it possible to remove restrictions on visiting.

“Patients can have their family with them whenever they want, regardless of the acuity of their illness, even in the Intensive Care Unit,” Weber said.


A family member can also spend the night with their loved one; “family” is defined by the patient, which for some may be a close friend. Each room is equipped with a sleeper bed or chair to accommodate an overnight guest. Every unit also has a family lounge and kitchen which visitors can share.

Life in the Emergency Department

New ER Designed, Prepared to See 50k Patients Annually

On an ordinary morning in Mills-Peninsula Medical Center’s Emergency Department, Michael Bresler, M.D., and Robert Argand, M.D., prepare for their shift during a moment of relative calm before the storm. This newly opened Emergency Department at the new hospital in Burlingame has the capacity to accommodate 50,000 visits every year.

Michael Bresler, M.D. and Robert Argand, M.D., quickly diagnose and treat patients in the ER.

“To work in emergency medicine, you have to not be rattled by a very loud, confusing and chaotic environment where you never know what’s going to happen next,” Dr. Bresler says. “You have to be exhilarated by it.”

Read More