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Neonatal Intensive Care Unit opens at hospital in Trail

The specialized unit is located on the fourth floor of KBRH
The NICU at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital is now open. Photo: Submitted

Kootenay Boundary expectant families facing early deliveries can now stay closer to home, thanks to generous donors and the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH) Health Foundation’s Tier 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) project.

Made possible by $745,000 in additional foundation-funded equipment and the addition of specialized NICU healthcare workers by Interior Health, the NICU officially opened April 24.

The new unit means KBRH has the capacity to support deliveries and care for babies born after 34 weeks, as well as urgent acute care for babies born even earlier with moderate risk.

“We are thrilled to open our Tier 3 NICU and care for mothers and babies close to home,” said Dr. Ian Ferguson, obstetrician, gynecologist and department head of Maternity and Pediatrics at KBRH.

“We can now keep patients local and repatriate other patients back home sooner then they otherwise would have had to relocate for care. It has made a huge difference for the families of our region, and everyone is very excited.”

A Tier 3 NICU requires significant equipment upgrades to accommodate the needs of the newborns. Three newly funded isolettes (specialized cribs) plus monitors and stabilization equipment are now available, The specialized care will be provided by neonatal healthcare professionals including a NICU educator and nurses as well as allied health professionals.

The new service will benefit expectant families throughout the entire Kootenay Boundary, reducing the burden of travel and keeping them close to local extended family and supports.

“Our pediatrics team is very excited to announce the official opening of the NICU at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital,” said Dr. Brenna Eldridge, pediatrician.

“This will provide much needed support for babies born prematurely and newborns who may require extra support, and will allow infants to stay in a supported environment as they recover and grow or await transport. We are immensely grateful to all those who supported this project.”

This great step forward in advanced neonatal care at KBRH began in September 2022, when the regional hospital was approved for Tier 3 nursery status. The NICU will house three nursery beds with 24/7 nursing care.

The hospital’s previous status was Tier 2, meaning the unit is staffed only when there is a baby needing care.

A Tier 3 NICU also means that services can be provided to newborns of at least 34 weeks gestation and at least 1,800 grams or four pounds in weight, who present moderate risk requiring acute care.

As well, this higher level of specialized care means an urgent/emergent baby born at a minimum 32 weeks gestation and at least 1,500 grams or 3.3 pounds with appropriate weight for gestational age may be able to remain at KBRH.

Moreover, this service increase will also allow for earlier repatriation of babies from Tier 4 to Tier 6 sites, such as Vancouver, Kelowna, and Kamloops hospitals, to the unit at KBRH. The NICU can also accept infants from Tier 1 and 2 sites, such as Kootenay Lake Hospital.

“This is wonderful for families in the Kootenay Boundary,” said Lisa Pasin, executive director of the KBRH Health Foundation. “The new neonatal medical equipment will improve accessibility to a higher level of care for families during what can be a challenging time and will also support specialist services and recruitment for our area.”

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