Calgary

Expanded neonatal intensive care unit set to open at Peter Lougheed Centre

More space will be available for the province’s smallest and most fragile newborns next month with the opening of the expanded neonatal intensive care unit at the Peter Lougheed Centre.

Head of pediatrics says having mothers involved in care will lead to better outcomes

Noah Mena, born March 27 to parents Jamie and Dan Mena, is one of the NICU patients who will be helped by the expansion at the Peter Lougheed Centre. (Mike Symington/CBC)

More space will be available for the province's smallest and most fragile newborns next month with the opening of the expanded neonatal intensive care unit at the Peter Lougheed Centre.

Started in 2015, the expansion is part of a $79.3 million redevelopment currently underway at the PLC and triples the available neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) space to 1,200 square metres.

The project also adds a dedicated isolation room, used to care for newborns and infants with highly transmissible conditions like chickenpox or respiratory illnesses.

Private rooms for single and multiple births will also be available, allowing families to spend more time with their newborns.

Mothers admitted along with their babies will also be part of the infant's care, said Dr. Essa Al-Awad, medical director of pediatrics at the PLC.

"They will be part of the team," he said. "All the studies show if the mother is involved, the outcome will be better."

The Peter Lougheed Centre treated more than 700 neonatal patients last year.

Dr. Essa Al-Awad, head of pediatrics at Peter Lougheed Centre, said the larger space will allow families to be more involved in the care of their newborns, leading to better outcomes. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Births in the Calgary area has increased by about eight per cent over the last five years, going from 17,960 in 2011 to 19,529 in 2016.

Roughly one-in-eight births in Alberta requires some level of neonatal care and there are 126 NICU beds available in the Calgary zone — which spans from Banff to Gleichen and Didsbury to Claresholm — including 27 at the Peter Lougheed Centre once the expansion opens.

"I've met with a number of moms and dads who are driving to and from the hospital on a regular basis, that are working to make sure they are breastfeeding as much as possible, that they're having that one-on-one contact with their infant," said Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.

"And by having these new, larger rooms that have room for them to spend the night and have greater protection for infection control, this really is state of the art."

One of the new rooms at the expanded NICU at the Peter Lougheed Centre. (Mike Symington/CBC)

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