St. Elizabeth opens $2.5 million Neonatal Intensive Care Unit August 25, 2016

CHRISTUS Health’s investment in state-of-art family-centered NICU pays dividends for Southeast Texas families with infants needing critical care.

CHRISTUS Southeast Texas St. Elizabeth’s $2.5 million renovation of their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) brings to the Southeast Texas community the highest level of critical care for infants born prematurely or in need of complex medical care.

Serving the Southeast Texas community since 1977, the NICU has the ability to care for newborn infants as young as 28 weeks gestation with differing degrees of complex medical needs.

“Expecting parents never want to think about needing a NICU,” said Paul Trevino, CHRISTUS Southeast Texas Health System CEO. “But every parent whose child has been in our NICU care will tell you they are grateful to have this kind of resource in our community.”

The 3,835-square-foot NICU features central monitoring, giving physicians and nurses the ability to monitor each baby from one central monitor at the main nursing station. The unit also offers Giraffe Omnibeds, which combine an incubator and a radiant warmer. With the touch of a button, the OmniBed converts from a full-featured incubator to a radiant warmer, which helps reduce stress to a baby.

The new NICU has fourteen beds with a larger bedside footprint to foster family-centered care and increased privacy for each patient. There are also three private rooms and a ‘rooming in’ room that families can use prior to discharge.

The CHRISTUS Southeast Texas Foundation, through collaborative fundraising, advocating, and educating, supported the $2.5 million NICU expansion. The Foundation was instrumental in development efforts, and raised $1.7 million towards the renovation. “The Foundation is proud to be a part of such an impactful endeavor for our community. We have been working with the hospital and the NICU staff towards this renovation and we are excited to see the meaningful results it will bring to our tiniest and neediest patients,” said Foundation President Ivy Pate.

With 31 nurses with 500-years of combined experience, the NICU staff is highly trained to care for the tiniest patients. “We not only have one of the most experienced NICU teams in the region, but some of the most caring, genuine people who understand the needs of the families whose children are in our care,” said Board-certified Neonatalogist and CHRISTUS Southeast Texas St. Elizabeth NICU Medical Director Lauree Thompson, M.D. “Our babies may weigh as little as 2 pounds, and caring for them and their families takes a special heart and skill.”

Members of the NICU staff also have been trained to serve as a transport team, which pick up preterm or critically ill infants in need of more care than their delivering hospital can accommodate. The NICU transport team, the only type of service in the region, consists of 10 nurses and 10 respiratory therapists, all of who have been thoroughly trained in caring for and transporting infants in need of intensive care. The team uses an ambulance equipped with specialized neonatal transport supplies.

“Initiating and developing a NICU transport team was critical in our area,” said NICU program coordinator Kelli Huebel, RN. “We received intense training through staff at CHRISTUS Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, and model our transport program after theirs.”

In 2017, the NICU for the first time will be undergoing Level 3 designation by the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), a new designation program that has been developing since 2012. The program’s intention is to ensure that the infants of Texas are cared for in the units that are most well equipped to care for the most vulnerable patients.