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Sisters Hospital to double size of neonatal unit that bursts at the seams

Sisters of Charity Hospital plans to double the number of beds in its bustling neonatal intensive care unit as part of nearly $9 million project announced Wednesday.

More than a dozen “graduates” of the unit were on hand as hospital officials and the Sisters Hospital Foundation took part in a ceremonial “wall breaking” to start construction.

Catholic Health plans to open the new 21,000 square-foot unit – which will grow from 20 to 40 beds – alongside the inpatient maternity unit and newborn nursery on the hospital’s second floor by the end of the year.

Care for premature babies will continue in the current fourth-floor unit until then.

“With more than 3,300 births in 2016, Sisters delivers more babies than any other hospital in Western New York and more than any hospital in the state, west of Syracuse,” hospital President and CEO Peter Bergmann said in a news release. “Our new NICU will give us the ability to meet the growing need for this specialized care, as well as provide greater comfort and privacy for our families and expanded workspace for our doctors, nurses and support staff.”

The Level III unit is equipped to care for premature infants as young as 23 weeks and full-term babies with special needs.

More than 650 babies were cared for in the unit last year.

“The hospital’s NICU is operating at 100 percent of its current licensed capacity 95 percent of the time,” said Aimee Gomlak, vice president of women’s services for Catholic Health. “We want to continue delivering the high quality neonatal care Sisters Hospital is known for, in a facility that better meets the needs of our tiniest patients, their families and the staff who care for them with such dedication and expertise.”

Western New York has experienced growth in recent years not only in the number of births, but also in the number of premature babies, multiple births and low birth weight babies, hospital officials said. Contributing factors include advanced maternal age, fertility treatments and maternal health issues such as obesity, gestational diabetes and drug dependency.

According to hospital officials, the new $8.8 million unit will include single-family rooms designed to enhance individualized care; a large, central technology hub to accommodate the most intensive care requirements; a dedicated “parents-only” space and overnight accommodations for families; and reduced light and sound control to create a more soothing environment for premature babies.

The hospital foundation has raised $1.7 million of the $2 million it has pledged toward the project.

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