New Hanover Regional's NICU reaches out to care for more babies

October 03, 2006
New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit is a busy place. At any time, it can be filled with as many as 33 ill babies. Born prematurely or with serious medical problems, these little patients fight for life with the help of physicians, nurses and staff who are dedicated to giving them the best possible chance.

But it’s not just the babies currently in the NHRMC neonatal unit that concern Fernando Moya, MD, Director of Neonatology Services. On the job here for a little more than a year, Dr. Moya is working to reach out to hospitals in the region through training and better systems of transfers, all while helping to plan the future NICU in the medical center’s new Women’s and Children’s Pavilion.

This summer, NHRMC brought an internationally recognized expert in the field of neonatal resuscitation, David Boyle, MD from the University of Indiana, to train 10 members of the NHRMC staff on new standards for resuscitating newborns. Those 10 members then trained the New Hanover Regional staff and are now making plans to extend their outreach.

“Bringing Dr. Boyle here for training was significant,” said Dr. Moya. “He was one of the co-chairs of the national committee on neonatal resuscitation of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, that developed new resuscitation protocols based on the best available evidence. Now we’re expecting to take that training out to other hospitals.”

The new standards are based on recent research showing that giving high levels of oxygen even for short periods of time can increase the risk of damage to an infant’s lungs and eyes. Furthermore, new evidence demonstrated that resuscitation efforts for newborns should focus primarily in establishing adequate respirations and only secondarily on providing extra oxygen. Among other things, the new standards recommend having blended oxygen available in every delivery room, something that has been accomplished at NHRMC with the help of a gift from the Medical Center Foundation of 17 oxygen blenders.

The NHRMC Foundation has also helped in the purchase of a neonatal state-of-the-art transport isolette. Functioning much like a mobile neonatal intensive care unit, the isolette is used to bring premature and critically ill babies from the surrounding counties to the medical center’s NICU. It is also being used to bring the babies back to their hometown hospitals when they no longer need such an intensive level of care.

“It’s often good to let a family get back to being closer to home,” said Barbara Buechler, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services. “Once the baby doesn’t need the intensive care provided at New Hanover, we can safely bring him or her back to their local hospital where the family doesn’t have to travel as much and has the support of local friends and relatives.”

Additionally, transferring babies back to their referring hospitals means NHRMC has more beds available for other critically ill babies and high-risk mothers.

“We have become more efficient,” said Dr. Moya. “This is important because there is still a high rate of prematurity throughout the country and in our state and the demands for our services continue to grow.”