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Alberta announces $2.3M for NICU in St. Albert

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WATCH ABOVE: More than 3,000 babies are expected to be born this year at the Sturgeon Community Hospital in St Albert. But right now, babies who need neonatal intensive care have to be sent to Edmonton. A funding announcement Monday will change that. Kim Smith reports. – Jan 15, 2018

As a way to meet growing demand northwest of Edmonton, the Alberta NDP announced funding Monday for a new neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in St. Albert.

The $2.3-million, six-unit NICU will open in mid-2019 at the Sturgeon Community Hospital. The unit will include an open NICU pod with four beds, two private NICU beds, a secure medication room and nursing station and a large family washroom.

Currently, babies born at the St. Albert hospital who require higher levels of care are sent to one of four NICUs in Edmonton.

“There are so many more babies being born here each and every year and of those babies, we know many of them require neonatal intensive care services,” Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said Monday.

“Keeping them closer to home, keeping them with their families and giving them the expert care they need while staying close to home is a win-win.”

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Amber Kent’s twin boys were born at Sturgeon Community Hospital on July 12 when Kent was just 28 weeks pregnant. When she arrived at the hospital, she was initially told it was Braxton Hicks contractions, but she ended up giving birth about 40 minutes later.

“I was told with twins, because I was high-risk, that if I was below 36 weeks pregnant, I would have to go to the Alex to deliver if any complications came up,” she explained, adding there was no time to get to Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital.

“Because I was 28 weeks, I was terrified about the fact that I was here, that there was no NICU for them. I was just worried about them and how they would do, if they had what they needed here to be able to take care of them.”

Kent was put under general anesthetic for the C-section and by the time she woke up, her boys had already been transferred to hospital in Edmonton.

“They got sent off and I wasn’t able to see them before they left. My husband went with them and I stayed here,” Kent said.

“I was lucky that I got transferred about six hours later to go to the Alex as a patient, but some moms don’t get to be transferred until they’re done their three-day stay as an inpatient at the hospital.”

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Kent said having a NICU at the Sturgeon Community Hospital will be a huge relief for area families.

“It’s going to be amazing. It’ll give the moms and their families just that extra reassurance that if something does go wrong, the resources are here for the nurses to be able to take care of their babies and to keep them close.”

Kent’s boys, Caellum and Bodie Kent, are now six months old and doing very well.

The new NICU at the St. Albert hospital will work under the expertise of the Stollery Children’s Hospital and will be equipped through $2.5 million in donations from the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.

More than 3,000 babies are expected to be born at the Sturgeon Community Hospital this year.

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