CHI Franciscan’s St. Joseph Medical Center in the US has opened a new Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to address the growing needs of the South Sound community.

The hospital partnered with Seattle Children’s neonatology programme to expand the NICU to the new 15,000 square foot unit to accommodate newborns across the system requiring specialty care.

The unit, which is more than five times larger compared to the previous space, has 11 new bassinets to increase care for at-risk mothers and premature newborns.

Following the expansion, the hospital will be able to accommodate more critically ill babies and address high occupancy rates.

CHI Franciscan CEO Ketul Patel said: “The need for specialised neonatal care has increased throughout our region, and we are excited for the completion of this vital space to care for our tiniest patients.

“With our expansion, patients and families can rest assured that they have access to the highest-quality care and expertise close to home.”

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The NICU now provides 16 Level III bassinets, 18 Level II bassinets, and 15 private rooms with new technology and equipment.

Through the Level III designation, it can provide care for babies born before 32 weeks, weighing less than 3 pounds 5 ounces and have certain medical conditions or require surgery.

Seattle Children’s Hospital Medical Service Lines and Specialty Programs vice-president Pam Rock said: “Seattle Children’s is proud to collaborate with CHI Franciscan to expand access to top-tier neonatal care for families in the South Sound.

“We look forward to continue driving these efforts today to serve families and the community for many years to come.”