During public hearing, community speaks in favor of NICU at LewisGale

SALEM, Va.- – Several Salem residents said a facility to care for the tiniest and sickest patients is an immediate need. Two weeks ago, we told you about LewisGale Medical Center's newest application to get a neonatal intensive care unit inside the hospital.

Mothers, including Jennifer Kidder, said it can prevent the worst outcome. Kidder showed a framed picture of her daughter to people during a public hearing on the issue. 

"This is Scarlett and she died the next day and this was the care she was able to get at the NICU," said Kidder. 

Scarlett was Jennifer Kidder's fifth child. The mother and newborn were separated after birth because the baby had a serious medical condition and needed extra care. 

"She had a brain tumor so she had to be with neurologists that they had at Carilion. And we need that at LewisGale. They can get it at LewisGale," said Kidder. 
During the public hearing Monday, other parents and community members also spoke in favor of having a neonatal intensive care unit at LewisGale.  A hearing officer from the state health commissioner's office was there to hear the comments. 

A mother shared her fears of having her son taken to another hospital for problems after birth.  

"I was discharged 24 hours after having a C-section because I wanted it. So I went across town, and had we had the NICU at LewisGale, I wouldn't have had to have to gone through that," she said. 

LewisGale is trying for the fourth time to open a NICU on-site. Two newborns died, said Dr. John Harding, because there wasn't a NICU on-site or they had to wait for transport. 

"Just in the past two to three weeks, I've transferred four patients. It's just not right to not have the NICU, to not have the ability to keep moms and babies together to potentially save these babies. It's that simple," said Harding, who is an obstetrician. 

Doctors say the first hour of a newborn's life is the most critical hour and is referred to as the "golden hour." 

"Although my baby wasn't going to make it, I still needed to be with her and hold her. And I wasn't able to do that at first. But there are mothers where their babies do have a chance for life and they should be able to hold their babies immediately," said Kidder. 

LewisGale said it is ready for the opportunity to provide a NICU and it has the staff to make it happen. The hospital is hoping to hear something about its application by the end of the year.