Providence expands nationally recognized care; Neonatal intensive care unit opens at Providence Portland Medical Center

August 19, 2014
Parents of premature infants will now have expanded access to Providence’s  nationally recognized care of tiny babies on  Portland’s eastside with the opening of Providence Portland Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, on Aug. 19. 

The experts who lead and provide the care at Oregon’s largest NICU at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, which serves 850 fragile newborns annually, were involved in the planning, construction and now operation of the new unit at Providence Portland. 

“We absolutely benefited from the experience of our neonatal experts at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in building this unit at Providence Portland Medical Center,” said John McDonald, M.D., Providence Women and Children’s Program medical director. “They have cared for our tiniest and most vulnerable patients for more than two decades and have a national reputation for clinical excellence. That expertise is the foundation for serving babies and their families here.” 

The state-of-the-art level 3 facility has private rooms and will serve up to 14 infants at any given time. Initially the unit will care for premature infants 30 weeks and older, and eventually accept babies at 28 weeks. In addition, the NICU will be staffed around the clock with neonatal nurse practitioners and experienced NICU nurses, many of whom transferred from Providence St. Vincent’s well-established and nationally recognized unit. 

With the opening of the NICU, Providence Portland’s entire third floor will be devoted to maternal and infant care. In addition to those served in the labor and delivery area and NICU, maternal fetal medicine specialists will care for mothers experiencing high risk pregnancies. To further support the growth of maternity services, Providence Portland also is implementing an obstetrics, or OB, hospitalist program. Hospitalists are physicians who specialize in labor and delivery management and are available to meet the emergency needs of patients in the hospital 24 hours a day, seven days a week. OB hospitalists have a hospital-only practice dedicated to expectant women in the maternity unit, including patients without prior prenatal care or patients who are transferred in because of the need for special high risk services. 

The expansion of maternal and fetal care at Providence Portland is a natural growth of women and children’s services at Providence. One-quarter of all babies born in Oregon – some 11,000 each year – begin their lives at Providence hospitals. Providence Portland will deliver close to 3,000 babies this year alone. 

With Providence Portland positioned on the east side of Portland, near I-84, it will be the closest NICU facility for families in need throughout east Multnomah County, Clackamas County and the Columbia River Gorge. In addition, it will allow Providence Portland patients experiencing challenging pregnancies to remain at the medical center and deliver their babies at the hospital of their choice. 

“The care of the newborn, and especially the care of the preterm newborn, epitomizes helplessness,” said Dr. McDonald. “Babies remind us of the essential vulnerability of the human experience. We are all blessed to care for those who come to us in need.” 

Fred Baker, M.D., medical director, and AnneMarie West, R.N., nurse manager, will lead the NICU team. Brendan Carroll, M.D, will serve as lead hospitalist, and Mark Tomlinson, M.D., and Tom Lee, M.D., will lead the team of maternal fetal medicine specialists in the care of complex and high risk mothers both in the hospital and in their newly opened prenatal care offices at the Providence Professional Plaza. Rounding out the department leadership is Jim Stempel, M.D., OB services medical director, Susie Hasty, R.N., perinatal division director and Julie Hannah, R.N., nurse manager.