New standards published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in September designate the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Georgia Health Sciences Children’s Medical Center as a Level IV Regional NICU – the highest level of critical care available for newborns. The unit cares for nearly 500 critically ill babies each year and is one of only two Level IV NICUs in Georgia.
“Our specially trained neonatologists, pediatric surgeons, nurses and other critical-care specialists work together to give babies their best chance at survival when they are at their most vulnerable,” said Dr. Chantrapa Bunyapen, NICU Medical Director. “This includes infants born with malformations of the heart, lungs, bowels, kidneys and eyes; chromosome abnormalities; severe birth depression and other serious conditions.”
The average stay for most babies in the unit is 52 days, and about half the newborns have been transferred from lower-level NICUs for treatments available only at a Level IV center, such as Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or ECMO, a heart-lung bypass machine.
“Our specially trained neonatal air and ground transport team is often dispatched to pick up babies across Georgia and even parts of South Carolina. The transport team immediately goes to work, providing complex intervention inside the ambulance or helicopter en route, another unique Level IV service we have at the CMC,” said Bunyapen.
Other features that distinguish the CMC NICU include:
• The largest team of neonatologists in the region
• 41 beds, including six in a HEPA-filtered area to protect at-risk babies from infections
• Couplet care for high-risk pregnant mothers and their premature babies under one roof
• Approximately 100 registered nurses who specialize in neonatal care, are certified in neonatal resuscitation and deliver one-on-one care when needed
• Dedicated pediatric dietitians, pharmacists and respiratory therapists for ventilation and other procedures
• Parent education
• A neonatal follow-up program for children with ongoing medical needs
Since 1985, the unit had been designated a Level III-D, which was the highest AAP-defined level until its Committee on Fetus and Newborn made new recommendations this year, promoting to Level IV the NICUs with the most experience and best resources for critical neonatal care.
For more information about the CMC NICU, call 706-721-KIDS (5437) or toll free at 888-721-KIDS (5437).