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Posted: March 14, 2009 11:59 p.m.

A new place for newborns

Hospital unit upgraded to handle, diagnose newborn complications

Jennifer T. Long/

Welcome to the NICU: Hospital employees and board members gathered to cut a Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce ribbon at the grand opening of Newton Medical Center's new neonatal intensive care unit Friday. Those on the front row are neon...

Hospital employees, board members and Chamber ambassadors gathered to tour Newton Medical Center’s recently upgraded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the official Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting ceremony Friday, officially opening the Level II unit.

“We opened the NICU to not only meet the standard of care, but to exceed the standard of care,” said Tammy Hotz, clinical manager of NMC’s Birthcare Center.

In addition to the purchase of high-tech resuscitative equipment and incubators, the NICU has been staffed with experienced physicians and nurses headed by neonatologist Dr. Leslie Leigh and his associate neonatologist Dr. Danni Suskin.

Two newborns have already received treatment from the NICU. The unit’s first patient was Nolan Dean, who was born prematurely Feb. 24. Before the opening of the NICU, Nolan and other premature babies would have been transferred to a hospital in Atlanta depending on their specific needs.

“We don’t transport them out anymore,” Hotz said. “We can keep moms with the babies and that’s a wonderful thing.”

Hospital Administrator and CEO James Weadick noted during a tour of the facility that the unit also is equipped with two rocking chairs so mothers can visit their newborns.

“We want to encourage that as much as possible,” Weadick said.

“It’s totally unnatural to be separated from your baby,” agreed Jeanette Burgeron, neonatal RNC.
Little Nolan was able to go home before the unit’s official ribbon cutting.

When speaking to the assemble crowd at the ribbon cutting Weadick explained how NICU physicians were able to quickly diagnose another infant with transposed great vessels in his heart – a diagnosis made possible by the new NICU unit and staff.

“That infant more than likely would not have survived a month ago, and now will likely live to adulthood,” Weadick said.

According to Weadick, work on turning the vision of the level II unit into a reality began two years ago.

“Activities of this sort don’t happen overnight,” Weadick said.

Fundraising efforts this year on the part of the hospital’s Auxilary Board will focus on supplementing funds used to purchase equipment in the unit as well its expansion from a four-bed capacity to an eight-bed capacity if a certificate of need is granted.

Hotz said the NICU was a great asset to the hospital as well as the community.

“Whether the team is teaching newborn care to parents or attending a high risk delivery and breathing life into a newborn, we are here for the community,” Hotz said. “This is a wonderful day for the healthcare of women and infants of Newton and the surrounding counties.”

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