THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF CARE FOR PREMATURE AND VERY SICK BABIES
University Hospital is now designated as a Level IV neonatal intensive care unit by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Level IV signifies the highest level of care available for premature and very sick babies.
While University Hospital’s NICU has offered that level of care they can deliver, state law now requires the Texas Department of State Health Services to designate both neonatal and maternal hospital programs according to the level of care they can deliver by March 2018.
The law also for the first time requires hospitals to pass a rigorous site visit by experts to verify those capabilities. Just two hospitals in San Antonio have received the Level IV designation by the state.
Just two hospitals in San Antonio have received the Level IV designation by the state. University Hospital’s 58-bed NICU is the first in South Texas to be verified by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which found no deficiencies. The NICU treats about 600 infants a year from throughout the state.
“There is nothing more fragile and precious than a critically ill newborn — whether it be a 1-pound premature baby born four months early, or a full-term newborn requiring emergent surgery,” said Dr. Steven Seidner, medical director of the NICU at University Hospital and professor of pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio.
“There is ample evidence that the outcomes of these babies are optimized in neonatal intensive care units that have neonatologists, pediatric subspecialists and surgeons who are available day and night. This comprehensive physician team can achieve greatness when nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, dieticians, therapists, case managers and social workers with neonatal expertise complete the team.”
Staff and physicians are passionate about supporting these tiny patients and their families. Two technologies, Angel Eye and Baby Chat, allow families to see and speak to their babies from elsewhere in the hospital, or across the state. Angel Eye was funded by the University Health System Foundation.
A technology called ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, is available to keep very sick babies alive by temporarily replacing the functions of their lungs. And a dedicated pediatric transport team is on call at all times to transfer babies from outlying hospitals by air or land — including by University Health System’s custom-designed NICU ambulance, which is equipped with a wider cab to accommodate a transport incubator, and two large tanks needed to provide the correct mix of oxygen and air to premature babies on long trips.
Specialized programs continue care long after the baby has left the NICU. The Premiere Program follows premature infants at risk of developmental delays through preschool years, evaluating them every
three to six months for growth, neurological, and developmental problems. And the NICU Graduate Clinic offers special follow-up care from a team of specialists over the first two years of the baby’s life.