The Medical Center of Trinity has opened a neonatal intensive care unit, providing a service that previously was unavailable in Pasco County.
The $7 million project is an expansion of the existing obstetrics program at the hospital, at 9330 State Road 54, in Trinity.
The unit, which opened on Jan. 4, is commonly called a NICU. It serves a market area including Pasco and Hernando counties, and the northern portions of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
The 4,718-square-foot NICU offers advanced levels of care for babies born as early as 32 weeks and weighing at least 1,500 grams.
The project is the latest addition to Medical Center of Trinity, which opened four years ago.
“As this facility was being planned, all along it was contemplated to add neonatal intensive care unit services,” said Hospital CEO Leigh Massengill.
Even before the resurgence of residential growth along the State Road 54 corridor, and the young families that will come along with it, the hospital saw the need for the services, she said.
The hospital saw how many infants and mothers had to be transferred out of the facility for a higher level of care, and it knew it could create a safer and more satisfying visit, if it could manage those services in-house, she said.
“Sometimes pregnant women would come in at 32 weeks, and they weren’t in active labor, but they required in hospital services, and we had to transfer them out because delivery could occur at any time,” Massengill said.
In the past, if a baby arrived at around 32 weeks, it was better for it to be in a facility where the care the baby needed could be immediately provided, said Lynn Smith, neonatal services manager. “The sooner you can get them to definitive care, the better,” Smith said.
Before, Massengill said, the baby had to be transported, which was not ideal.
“It really kind of breaks your heart when you take a newborn baby and pack him up in this scary-looking transporter, and stick him on a helicopter to go flying off to another county, and leaving mother and family, and the rest of the extended family behind, worrying,” she said.
Now, the CEO said, “they either go one way, to the newborn nursery, or they come in for more intensive care.”
Cheryl Sherrill, director of women’s and neonatal services said: “It is a wonderful service to the community, to keep these families together.”
The new NICU expansion includes 12 Level II NICU beds and an overnight room for families transitioning to taking their babies home.
“We understand, that for us, the birth experience is an event. It’s not like acute care. People have been planning this event for a very long time, and we want to make sure we do everything we can to make this a special event for them,” Sherrill said.
“When sometimes things happen, and babies come a little bit earlier than they were planning on, then, that’s why we have this beautiful NICU down here,” Sherrill said.
The hospital has a relationship with All Children’s Specialty Physicians from All Children’s Hospital, who are providing neonatology services, Massengill said.
“So, they’re always on call to support us. They’re in the facility on a daily basis. They take care of our babies. They interface with the families, with the pediatricians, with the obstetricians, to make sure those babies get the best care possible,” she said.
When there’s enough notice, Sherrill said, “We get the neonatology team involved and the NICU charge nurse, and we start that relationship from when the mom is hospitalized.
“The neonatologists work with the OBs (obstetricians) for the best plan of care, of when to deliver this baby, so we can be prepared, and the team and the family is comfortable, already knowing kind of what’s going to happen at the time of delivery. So, it doesn’t become such an emergent event when it happens,” Sherrill added.
The center uses a family centered approach to care.
“We want to make sure that the family is included in everything,” Sherrill said.
Along those lines, the hospital has extended visiting hours. Two approved visitors are allowed at bedside at all hours, except for 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., and 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“We want the family to be here more often than not, because we know that with giving family centered care, they are an important team member in promoting this baby’s growth and wellness,” Sherrill said.
She’s excited about the hospital’s new services. “I came here specifically for this project,” said Sherrill, noting she moved to the area from Austin, Texas.
The hospital pulls together numerous services that will help premature babies and their families, Sherrill said.
“We have our own speech pathologist, we have our own dietitians, we have our own NICU pharmacists, so we have a lot of support services that you traditionally find in much larger facilities,” Sherrill said.
The hospital also has a licensed clinical social worker dedicated to NICU babies and families, and a family centered care committee. It has educational opportunities for parents and siblings, too.
In addition to its relationship with All Children’s neonatologists, the hospital has registered nurses who are experienced in neonatal intensive care.
By choosing to use a family centered model, the hospital puts the mom in contact with her baby as much as possible, Sherrill said.
“We let the baby tell us what they’re ready for, then us trying to make the baby be ready for,” Sherrill added.
The hospital also works with All Children’s network of providers to help families plug into care in the community after they leave the hospital, helping families to make a smooth transition once they leave the hospital, Sherrill said.
Published January 27, 2016