Norton Children’s Hospital dedicates new neonatal intensive care unit

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 23, 2013): The third phase of renovations and an expansion of the Norton Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was unveiled today. This new space is part of a five-phase, $24.5 million renovation project to increase the capacity of the NICU to 101 beds and update existing space. The project includes $14 million in support from the Children’s Hospital Foundation.
The latest thinking in neonatal care requires a more family-centered approach, said Thomas D. Kmetz, division president, Women’s and Children’s Services, and chief administrative officer, Norton Children’s Hospital. This has been shown to improve the short-term and long-term outcomes for premature and medically fragile infants in addition to providing a more comfortable setting for parents.
Renovations included enclosing patient areas, which provides privacy for parents while they spend time with their infant something that was not part of NICUs constructed 20 years ago. Each 150- to 180-square-foot room in this area now features a flat-screen television with DVD player for family education and entertainment, a rocking chair/recliner, a taller chair that swivels and is the same height as the incubator, a bench and additional storage areas. The rooms also are equipped with state-of-the-art GE Giraffe OmniBed incubators and Philips MP80 physiological monitors linked to a central monitor at the nurses station. Direct/indirect lighting provides the correct level of light exposure, and colorful paint and countertops complement the warm, family-focused environment.

With the completion of phase 3 of the renovation, the NICU now has a total of 44 private rooms. Two additional rooms may be used for families with twins. Babies will move into this new space in early January.

The Norton Children’s Hospital NICU is one of the largest in the country, said Dan L. Stewart, M.D., neonatologist and medical director of the NICU. Advances in medical technology now allow more premature infants to survive at lower birth weights. 

According to the March of Dimes, 12.7 percent of babies born in 2012 in Kentucky were delivered prematurely, at less than 37 weeks gestation. In 2011, that percentage was 13.4. In Indiana, the percentages were 10.9 in 2012 and 11.6 in 2011. Smoking during pregnancy is considered a risk factor for low birth weight, and Kentucky has a high rate of smoking by pregnant women.

More than 1,200 babies are cared for at Norton Children’s Hospital each year for issues related to prematurity, congenital birth defects and childbirth complications. Some of them are in the unit for a few days, others for several months.

We are able to offer a Level IV NICU, which means we are a regional center with services to treat all medical and surgical needs of newborns, including extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and cardiopulmonary bypass for serious congenital heart defects, said Dr. Stewart, who also is professor of pediatrics at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. In addition, this renovated space better incorporates the family in the care of their baby.
Phase 1 and 2 renovations added family-centered care areas located at Norton Hospital, connected to Norton Children’s Hospital via pedway. These spaces enhanced the high-risk maternal-fetal care already available.
The Children’s Hospital Foundation is thrilled to have supported such an important project, said Lynnie Meyer, MSN, R.N., CFRE, executive director of the Children’s Hospital Foundation. Support we have received from the community specifically for this project helped facilitate such an important investment in our work. We know that the changes we are making will mean a great deal to the more than 1,200 families who need our services every year.

Additional phases of construction will include renovations to the existing NICU space at Norton Children’s Hospital as well as the addition of the White Castle Family Space.

About Norton Children’s Hospital
For more than a century, Norton Children’s Hospital and its predecessor hospitals have cared for the children of Kentucky and Southern Indiana without regard to their families ability to pay. Norton Children’s Hospital is Kentucky’s only full-service, free-standing pediatric care facility dedicated exclusively to caring for children and is an advocate for the health and well-being of all children. The 267-bed hospital serves as the primary pediatric teaching facility for the University of Louisville School of Medicine. In 2007, Norton Children’s Hospital received the prestigious Magnet designation recognizing excellence in nursing from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Norton Children’s Hospital is one of the top Children’s hospitals in the United States as ranked in U.S. News Media Groups editions of Americas Best Children’s Hospitals since 2009. More information is available at NortonChildren’

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