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Jessica Conone and her daughter, Gianna.


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NCH's new Level III perinatal designation provides the community with comprehensive care for high-risk moms and infants

When Jessica Conone's high-risk pregnancy led doctors to induce labor, it could have been a time of panic, of uncertainty, of being taken to an unfamiliar hospital because only certain hospitals can care for such mothers and premature newborns.

Instead, the Carpentersville resident benefited from staying with her physician, her community hospital and its state-of-the-art care for premature and seriously ill newborns.

It's just one piece of an enhanced perinatal program at Northwest Community Hospital (NCH). In fact, the Hospital recently received a Level III perinatal designation from the Illinois Department of Public Health, which included NCH's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The NICU opened last May and is staffed by experts in neonatology from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

Advanced Infant Care Close to Home

So what does the Level III perinatal classification mean for community residents?

"If a mom has her baby at NCH, she can be assured we have the highest level of designation available in the state. That means we can take care of high-risk mothers and their infants at any gestational age, including infants as small as two pounds or less—right here, right in their own community," says Cindy Hartwig, MS, RN, director of Women's & Children's Services at NCH.

In addition to accommodating premature and seriously ill infants, NCH's Level III NICU can also readmit newborns who have already been discharged for specialized intensive care, Hartwig adds. All of these developments are important because, prior to the designation, mothers who were delivering earlier than 30 weeks into their pregnancies had to be transferred to a Level III facility, as did their babies. Now, mothers and the tiniest infants can receive that same high level of care close to home. Since premature or seriously ill newborns may have to stay in the hospital for weeks, the convenience of being close to home is important.

Family-Centered Care

NCH's Level III NICU also provides some of the comforts of home. The 16-bed, state-of-the-art facility features all private rooms and offers parents the ability to participate in their baby's care. Each suite includes a sleeping area and amenities that allow parents to stay with their baby, resulting in an experience that allays fears. This family-centered environment supports parent involvement and education so new parents are comfortable caring for their baby when they go home.

As part of the Level III designation, NCH offers:

  • Neonatal surgeries, with pediatric surgeons on staff
  • Around-the-clock neonatal physician coverage
  • On-site consultations with maternal fetal medicine physicians
  • Highly trained staff, including a dedicated neonatal pharmacist, neonatal respiratory therapist, nurses and a social worker
  • A comprehensive follow-up program after discharge

Best of all, Northwest Community Hospital's NICU can truly be thought of as a community resource. "It was financed by community donations," Hartwig says. "That speaks to the connection NCH has made with individuals and families who live in the area. Thanks to their generosity, everyone in the surrounding area will benefit from the impact of this designation for generations to come."

To learn more about the fundraising efforts for NCH's Level III NICU, read "Donors' Generosity Leads to State-of-the-Art NICU."

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Last Updated 04/10/2009