SALEM, Va. – LewisGale’s tiniest patients will now have another level of care.
The hospital was just given the green light to build a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after a 12-year application process.
“It’s been a long journey, coming on 12 years now working with the state. But to finally have received approval to move forward with a NICU for our campus and for the system, it’s super. It’s super,” said Jones.
On Monday, the hospital announced that the Virginia Department of Health granted the certificate of public need. LewisGale President Lance Jones says the 6-bed NICU will provide critical care to babies who are sick or premature.
“Much like an emergency room, you don’t need it every day, but it’s there if you need it,” said Jones.
It will cost about $1.5 million to $2 million to build. Jones says the NICU is coming at the perfect time because 2021 saw a record number of births at the medical center in Salem with more than 1,100 births.
“We will certainly have capacity for moms and families if they choose our providers and midwives,” said Jones.
LewisGale midwife Kris Conrad has “caught” nearly 1,000 babies in her 20-year career.
“I’ve been involved in a lot more labors than that. I was a labor and delivery nurse before I was a nurse-midwife as well, and caught a few there,” said Conrad.
She says bringing a baby into the world can be stressful if infants need to be in a NICU. Before, LewisGale would have to transfer babies to another hospital for care.
“And that means the mom has just had a baby and is recovering from the birth and is separated from her child because she might not be in medical condition to discharge right away,” said Conrad.
Now, new parents will be able to stay with their babies under one roof.
She also said the population’s health has taken a downturn in the past 15-20 years from obesity to opioid use - especially in Southwest Virginia - and that means more women are having high-risk pregnancies. Conrad said having the NICU on-site will be better for those mothers and their babies.
”It’s a wonderful time of life and I’m glad we’ll be able to offer this service, if it’s needed, to our community,” said Jones.