Franciscan Health System Opens Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Partnership with Seattle Children’s Neonatology


Today, Franciscan Health System in partnership with Seattle Children’s Neonatology will begin caring for South Puget Sound’s tiniest patients in their new Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.

The new five-bed Level III NICU will complement the 18-bed Level II Special Care Nursery, expanding the continuum of care for critically ill newborns and fragile preemies with special medical needs. With the Level III NICU, St. Joseph will now be able to care for babies as young as 28 weeks and weighing as little as about two pounds.

The Franciscan and Seattle Children’s Neonatology partnership expands the availability of specialized neonatal care offered throughout the South Sound. Seattle Children’s neonatologists and neonatal nurse practitioners will provide neonatal leadership for Franciscan and continuous in-hospital coverage in the NICU at St. Joseph. Medical management services will also include attendance at high-risk deliveries and consultation to obstetricians, midwives and pediatricians.

Seattle Children’s Neonatology will also offer onsite medical management and consultation for moderately ill babies in the Special Care Nursery at St. Francis Hospital, and are available for consultation as needed at St. Elizabeth Hospital. In addition, the providers will offer continuing education and training for Franciscan staff and providers, ensuring we are providing the highest level of care.

The Level III NICU includes state-of-the art technology that provides infants and their families with a nurturing and healing environment. These brand new features include:

  • New High-Flow Nasal Cannula devices that deliver continuous positive airway pressure, which provides these fragile patients with respiratory support.
  • Cardiac Respiratory Monitors that provide a clear, concise readout of vital signs.
  • Hush Curtains that serve as floor-to-ceiling, noise-reducing barriers that offer a baby and family privacy, as well as a quiet and restful environment.
  • Circadian Rhythm Lighting that will dim and brighten according to a baby’s natural sleep patterns.

Additional St. Joseph NICU staff, services and support include specialty trained and experienced registered nurses, dedicated NICU pharmacists, specialty dieticians, physical therapy staff who specialize in neonates, as well as social workers and case management staff.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer these new services to the families of medically fragile newborns in South Puget Sound,” said St. Joseph Medical Center President Syd Bersante. “We are committed to excellence every day in every life we touch. Our new NICU and this partnership with the skilled providers from Seattle Children’s Neonatology team display the focus we have on advanced medicine and trusted care.”

The Franciscan Birth Centers in Tacoma, Federal Way and Enumclaw deliver more than 5,000 babies annually. More than 3,800 babies are born every year at St. Joseph Medical Center alone, making it the busiest birth center in the South Sound and the sixth-busiest in the state.

It’s estimated 10 percent of newborns may need specialized neonatal care. The addition of the Level III NICU at St. Joseph and the partnership with Seattle Children’s Neonatology will help ensure that most premature and critically ill newborns will receive advanced care where they are born, minimizing the need to transfer them to another hospital.

“Seattle Children’s is very pleased to partner with the Franciscan Health System to bring world class neonatal intensive care services to premature and critically ill infants in the South Sound region,” said Patricia Spitale, MD, neonatology medical director for Franciscan Family Birth Centers, and Seattle Children’s Hospital neonatologist. “Together, we will provide the best possible care and latest advances to the region’s most fragile newborns, all while keeping them closer to home.”

St. Joseph Medical Center is the fourth regional hospital to partner with Seattle Children’s Neonatology. Other partners include Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue and Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.

About Franciscan Health System

Franciscan Health System includes St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw, St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor; Highline Medical Center in Burien; Franciscan Hospice House in University Place; Franciscan Medical Group clinics and providers in Pierce, King and Kitsap counties; and the Franciscan Foundation. Franciscan is part of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a national non-profit health system with headquarters in Englewood, Colo. Currently, CHI ranks as the nation’s third-largest faith-based health system, with annual operating revenues of $10.7 billion and approximately 78,500 employees. In fiscal year 2012, CHI provided more than $715 million in charity care and community benefit, including services for the poor, free clinics, education and research. For more information visit us at www.fhshealth.org.

About Seattle Children’s

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Seattle Children’s has been delivering superior patient care while advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit www.seattlechildrens.org or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.