UT Health Tyler unveiled a $2.7 million plan to build a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) on Friday. 

The NICU is expected to open in the fall of this year and will contain nine neonatal beds, a number which was selected based on the population and amount of deliveries. With state regulations as far as capacity and size, the NICU will provide life-saving care for infants. 

The NICU will be established on the fourth floor of the hospital, where a small group of administrators and physicians gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony at which the plan was announced.

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Dr. Snehal Doshi, chief executive officer of Millennium Neonatology, whose team of neonatologists will be working with UT Health Tyler to provide expert care, said the ultimate goal is to keep families together after the delivery of a sick newborn. 

“The smaller towns and counties, they actually do not have a neonatal intensive care unit. With the establishment of a NICU at UT Health Tyler, it allows for us to be able to get those infants and bring them here and be able to take care of them here,” Doshi said. 

With the establishment of a NICU at UT Health Tyler, regional hospitals including those of Athens, Henderson and Jacksonville will no longer be required to send high-risk mothers and infants to Dallas for a higher level of care. Instead, they will have the convenience of having state-of-the-art neonatal beds and equipment within reach in Tyler. 

“Anytime a baby is born and is having difficulty, time is of the essence. Sometimes it’s minutes that matter the most, sometimes it's the first few hours, but ultimately the quicker we can get those babies to an intensive care unit and to a neonatologist, is crucial,” Doshi said. 

Vicki Briggs, chief executive officer of UT Health Tyler, said infants will be receiving the most advanced care in the rare event of when it is needed. 

“Our investment of $2.7 million in construction and equipment to provide this level of care is the first step. Another key component is the relationship with our obstetricians, pediatricians and neonatologists, along with the dedicated nurses and other caregivers at our family birthplace.” 

“The vision to bring this project to completion in such trying times as these would not be possible without the dedication of our physicians and staff, but most importantly the support of our community,” Briggs said.  “As winner of Best Place to Have a Baby in the Tyler Morning Telegraph’s 2020 Best in Town awards, we want to continue to provide the best possible experience for both mother and baby.” 

Dr. Sunni Boren, OBGYN, has been delivering infants at UT Health Tyler for 16 years. 

“When you’re delivering patients and you have a patient who has that issue or problem pre-term, it’s so disheartening to have to transfer them to another hospital in another town. You’re sending them away from their family, from their support group,” Boren said. 

“Not only that, but we have a bond with our patients and we have often a long-term relationship with that patient, so the idea of passing them off to let somebody else take care of them, I’ve been doing it for 16 years and I hate it. So, I’m so happy to be able to keep them here. I can take care of the mommies and these wonderful neonatologists will be able to take care of their babies.” 

UT Health Tyler is working with the City of Tyler to donate nine trees to symbolize the nine neonatal beds that will be in the NICU. The trees will be planted at an area park in early spring. 

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