From left: Penrose-St. Francis VP of Operations Calvin Eisenach, Penrose-St. Francis President and CEO Brian Erling, Neonatologist Dr. Bridget Buzzella, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services Candace Garko, and NICU Clinical Manager Jody Bean.

With the opening Aug. 28 of an expanded Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), St. Francis Medical Center is providing the highest level of care for critically ill newborns.

“No parent wants to think about having their infant in a NICU or needing transport to a NICU for advanced care,” said Andrea Sinclair, communications manager for Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.

But when such care is needed, “St. Francis Medical Center is committed to providing expert-level care from the moment a patient enters our unit,” Sinclair said. 

The new NICU includes:

• Increased capacity from 30 beds to 46 beds

• Two state-of-the-art couplet rooms, where mothers and babies can stay together and receive expert, round-the-clock care. St. Francis Medical Center’s NICU is the only one in Colorado and only the fourth in the nation with couplet rooms.

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• Increased space to care for multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)

• Advanced room lighting to support and stimulate babies’ circadian rhythms

• A family sleeping zone with privacy partitions and full private restrooms

• Outdoor patio space and a Wellness Garden

• A NICU family lounge, a space requested by NICU graduate families so they can connect with other families in similar circumstances

• A breast milk storage room

• A family pre-discharge room that supports parents preparing to leave the hospital and return to their homes.

Most babies are cared for in Level I Well Newborn nurseries.

Level II Special Care nurseries take care of infants that need more care because of low birth weight, early delivery or health problems.

Level III NICUs provide the highest level of care for babies born before 32 weeks or who weigh less than 3.3 pounds, are critically ill or need equipment to help them breathe.

The St. Francis NICU aims to provide family-centered, baby-friendly care in an environment that encourages parents to become essential members of the team.

“We will provide all available support to assist parents through their baby’s hospitalization and strive to be as helpful as possible through a difficult and unexpected journey,” Sinclair said.

The NICU utilizes state-of-the-art equipment to take care of sick and preterm infants including monitors and ventilators, high frequency ventilation, nitric oxide therapy, therapeutic hypothermia and many other services to take care of sick and preterm infants.

Its staff, headed by Medical Director Dr. Bridget Buzzella and two other neonatologists, provides a multidisciplinary team approach and access to subspecialists to care for infants born extremely premature at 23 weeks all the way to term infants requiring specialized care.

Parents are encouraged to participate in rounds and bedside care. The Ronald McDonald Family Room provides an area for families and siblings with a TV, computers, kitchen, play area, shower with toiletries and laundry facilities.

The opening of the new NICU marks completion of the first phase of construction of an expansion at the medical center.

The four-story expansion will add more than 168,000 square feet including a new emergency department, new operating rooms, antepartum rooms and shell space for future growth.

The expansion, begun in May 2017, is scheduled for completion in early 2019.

St. Francis Medical Center is part of the Centura Health network.