Knowing that the tiniest of precious lives will soon be able to stay in Trail and receive around-the-clock neonatal care at the regional hospital will be a welcome comfort to parents and families of babies born preterm, with a low birth weight or with a health condition that requires special care.
Coming this spring is a Tier 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on the fourth floor of Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH). This means neonates (of specific gestation and birth weight) needing intensive care can stay close to home instead of being flown out of town to a larger centre for specialized care.
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 current status is 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 the 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.
“Tier 3 Nursery status will positively impact patients and families of our region,” says Lisa Pasin, KBRH Health Foundation executive director. “It will allow mothers and babies to have access to appropriate, safe, and quality care closer to home, strengthening maternal/child care across the Kootenay Boundary region.”
So with Tier 3 status approved, and fundraising well underway for respective equipment, the question becomes: What are the staffing needs for such specialized care?
Right out of the gate, Tier 3 status facilitated the hiring of a new pediatrician. The new children’s doctor started at KBRH in January, growing the number of pediatricians to three.
Next comes 24-7 nursing needs. Staffing the NICU requires enhanced training and the hiring of six registered nurse positions as well as a funded educator.
Interior Health told the Trail Times that dedicated nurses trained in neonatal care will be hired to ensure the NICU is staffed around the clock to provide necessary care.
“Increasing the local capacity to care for premature babies requiring complex care will result in physician and nurse recruitment and retention,” Pasin says.
The project is being rolled out in two phases, and budgeted at $700,000. The foundation is supporting medical equipment purchases; $500,000 has been donated to date; $200,000 remains outstanding.
Pasin shares how this vital project has gotten so far in such a short amount of time.
“An angel truly did emerge for us to make this project a reality,” she reveals. “The foundation received a significant donation from a local family, who wishes to remain anonymous at this time, to launch the Tier 3 NICU project.
“As a result of the amazing generosity from our angel family, the foundation has purchased all the equipment from phase one of the project, which supported the NICU, Aspen clinic and obstetrics/gynecology procedures in the operating rooms.”
(Aspen Maternity and Women’s Health Clinic is located on the fourth floor of KBRH.)
NICU fundraising is still underway for equipment including: two cribettes; one respiratory cart; four oxygen blenders; four vital sign monitors; three bedside storage tables; and two optiflow nasal oxygen therapy devices.
Donations received from community members and revenue from “Perfectly Paired,” as well as future contributions, will purchase equipment for phase two of the NICU project.
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