Walton County’s first neonatal intensive care unit has begun caring for premature and critically ill babies at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast.
This 10-bed, Level II unit will care for infants born prematurely, up to two months early, who weigh more than 3.3 pounds. The comprehensive group of caregivers includes board-certified neonatologists (pediatricians with specialized training in the care of critically-ill infants), neonatal nurses, immunologists and nutritionists along with a team of specialized nurses, support staff and volunteers.
“When parents have their babies at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast, they can rest assured that they’ll have immediate access to high-quality, compassionate care in the event of a complication,” said Roger Hall, president of Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast. “The NICU is the hospital’s seventh major expansion in our efforts to increase access to specialized healthcare in our community. We are thrilled to offer this next level of care for babies of our community.”
The NICU is named in recognition of the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, which gave more than $2 million to fund the construction of this unit.
“Our community truly rallied behind the creation of this NICU, and we are so thankful to our supporters such as the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, who saw the invaluable service that this unit will provide - the care of our smallest and most vulnerable patients,” said Carol Carlan, president of the Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation.
The NICU is the last phase of a $30 million hospital expansion, which added 13 new rooms to the emergency room, 12 additional inpatient rooms and 12 new post-partum suites to the Family Birth Place.
Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast is the only hospital in the area with a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the highest possible rating. It is also the only one in the area to hold the “Baby-Friendly” designation from the World Health Organization and UNICEF, recognizing its commitment to the highest level of breastfeeding support and education.
Pediatric services at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast are backed by The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Northwest Florida’s only children’s hospital. The Children’s Hospital provides a Level III NICU for the most critically ill and premature newborns. Should a baby need surgery or have needs beyond what can be managed at the Emerald Coast’s Level II NICU, a mobile neonatal critical care transport ambulance stationed in Miramar Beach will provide rapid transfer to the children’s hospital.
Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast President Roger Hall and VP of Nursing BJ Fontaine watch over baby-girl McKinley Smith from Crestview, who was born seven weeks early and - along with her twin brother Emerson - is now one of the first patients in the hospital’s new neonatal intensive care unit.