The new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital has opened for severely ill children who need intensive hospital care.

The four-bed, 2,500-square-foot unit, which opened June 18th, provides intensive medical care to children who need ventilators for breathing assistance or require constant monitoring of vital organs, including the heart, lungs and kidneys.

Children undergoing major surgeries, such as orthopedic and spine procedures, will also be cared for in the unit.

Hospital officials said the pediatric intensive care unit is the first of its kind in Santa Monica. Until now, severely ill children who needed intensive care had to be admitted or transferred to SM-UCLA and Orthopaedic Hospital’s sister hospital, UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, or another hospital outside the community.

“This unit represents another proud moment in the long and illustrious history of our hospital,” said Posie Carpenter, Santa Monica-UCLA chief administrative officer. “It builds on our already outstanding reputation in women’s and children’s services and serves as another example of how the UCLA Health System is making its world-class resources and expertise more accessible to the Westside community.”

Carpenter noted that the intensive care unit also will help ensure continuity of care for hospitalized children because SM- UCLA operates the city’s only inpatient pediatrics unit for children who are not acutely ill but still require hospital care. Most patients at the unit will transition to the regular pediatrics unit for continuing care before being discharged home, hospital officials said.

SM-UCLA Medical Center’s expertise in caring for sick children begins at its 24-hour Nethercutt Emergency Center, which is the city’s only “Emergency Department Approved for Pediatrics,” hospital officials said. The designation means the hospital has met established criteria for providing competent age-friendly emergency care for sick children.

The pediatric intensive care unit will be managed by unit director Lynn Coates-Leisen, who also manages the Pediatrics Unit and has experience in this specialty, and Dr. Jennifer Geracht, a pediatric intensivist who serves as medical director.