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New ICU for newborns opens in Vacaville

The neonatal intensive care unit fills a geographic void in care for babies born after 34 weeks or who need intermediate-level care. Pictured, Laura Cerda holds her 8-day-old baby, Liliana Flores, who received care at the new Kaiser Permanente Vacaville neonatal intensive care unit.

When 32-year-old Laura Cerda came in for an appointment at the Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center during week 37 of her pregnancy, doctors noticed the baby’s heart rate was a bit unsteady.

“I have diabetes, which can be a problem for the baby, so we induced labor, and I delivered,” said Cerda, as she held her newborn daughter, Liliana Flores, in the hospital’s new neonatal intensive care unit, which opened in January.

After giving birth, her daughter stayed in the new ICU 8 days as her caregivers monitored and treated her low blood sugar levels.

“It’s so nice having this ICU so close, especially with my other 2 kids at home, and it’s only 5 minutes from my house,” said Cerda, who moved to Vacaville about 18 months ago. “I can just pop by to see her.”

That kind of convenience in a growing community is exactly what Kaiser Permanente had in mind when it opened the new unit, said Cherie Stagg, RN, who holds a doctoral degree in nursing practice, and who is chief nurse executive at the Vacaville hospital.

Tiffany Golden, RN, cares for a baby in the new neonatal intensive care unit.

Previously babies that needed any type of ICU care after birth were transferred to Kaiser Permanente medical centers in Roseville or Walnut Creek. Now the new neonatal ICU in Vacaville can accommodate pre-term babies born after 34 weeks or who need intermediate-level intensive care. Those born before 34 weeks of pregnancy or who need a higher level of intensive care will continue to be transferred to higher level neonatal ICUs, in Roseville or Walnut Creek.

“For intermediate care we can rule out sepsis, low blood sugar, help with breathing, and some pre-term infants who may need support in growing and feeding,” said Family Birth Center Clinical Nursing Director Melody Martin, RN.

Kaiser Permanente will continue to evaluate the need for additional services as the area grows, said Stagg.

Neonatal ICU staff nurse Ebony Bethely, RN, said the new services for moms and babies makes all the difference in the world.

“Before we opened you could see the stress on the parents’ faces when their babies had to be transferred,” said Bethely. “Now, even though having your baby in the ICU is stressful, the parents are right next door. They are able to be with their child and support breast feeding and be part of their care. I notice a lot of the parents are so thankful that we are offering our community this service that was not here before.”

For new mom Laura Cerda, it made a potentially difficult time less so.

“My daughter was here 8 days, and today we are going home,” she said. “It would have been rough having to travel to see her.”



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