Tacoma's St. Joseph Medical Center has announced that it has received state approval to establish a five-bed Level III neonatal intensive care unit, where critically ill newborns will receive special medical attention. The NICU will be in addition to the hospital’s 18-bed Level II special care nursery that has served newborns with special needs for about 20 years
“We are very pleased to be able to provide this enhanced level of care for our most-fragile infants,” said Mary LaFalce, associate administrator of women’s services for the Franciscan Health System, which includes St. Joseph Medical Center. “The range of care we offer moms, babies and their families will be better than ever.”
Planning for the Level III NICU is underway. Construction is expected to begin later this year at a cost of about $1.6 million.
More than 3,800 babies are born annually at St. Joseph Medical Center, making its birth center the busiest in the South Sound and sixth-busiest in the state. On average, 10 percent of newborns need Level II or Level III intensive care. The length of stay can be a few days to a month or longer depending on the complexity of medical issues.
In the St. Joseph NICU, physicians, nurses and other specially trained health care professionals will provide care for babies born very prematurely (as early as 28 weeks gestation) and as light at 2 pounds, 2 ounces. Normal birth occurs at a gestational age of about 40 weeks. Full-term babies weigh an average of 7 pounds.
The NICU team includes neonatologists (physicians who specialize in medical care of newborn infants), neonatal nurse practitioners, consulting specialists, registered and certified nurses, educators, and respiratory therapists that focus on newborns.