LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Since the only Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Deep East Texas opened at Woodland Heights Medical Center in December 2013, transporting babies there has been a lengthy process.
"We had to wait for a team from Houston or Shreveport to come up and transport to the unit here to Lufkin," said Dr. Linda Chase, NICU Program Director at Woodland Heights
Beginning Monday, however, that's not the case anymore. Woodland Heights has launched their own NICU transport team.
"We'll have a nurse practitioner, a newborn NICU nurse, and a respiratory therapist that's been trained to take care of sick newborns all in the ambulance," Chase explained.
The NICU staff underwent intensive training at a women's hospital in Houston.
A special ambulance was specifically designed to transport and care for newborns.
"You know, you can't toss a sick newborn in any ambulance," Chase explained. "We have a transport isolette that's an incubator, which can get locked into the ambulance. The ambulance itself has to be fit for the transport isolette, and that's different than adult gurneys.">
The ambulance also has IVs, ventilators, and other equipment made small enough to be able to use on an infant.
This service isn't just for babies here in Lufkin, it can transport newborns that need intensive care from around the Deep east Texas area.
"It is just great for all of the families from Jasper to Nacogdoches to even just around the corner," said Lisa Miller, Director of Women's services at woodland Heights.
The NICU transport team is a 24 hour service, with several staff members trained and ready to go, whenever an emergency occurs.
"It takes a lot of equipment, education, and know-how and I'm happy to say, we are ready to provide that," Chase said.
Woodland Heights has been constructing an expansion to the NICU Center, expected to be completed later this year.
It will increase the number of NICU beds from 6 to 15, allowing them to serve more infants.