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Sisters Hospital unveils new, expanded neonatal ICU

MIke Desmond

Sisters of Charity Hospital has unveiled its new and expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for the sickest newborns. It is a multi-million-dollar effort to deal with the rising ranks of children who need neonatology care.


Catholic Health's new NICU doubles the number of available beds for the kids, another leap upward from 20 years ago when the first unit opened. Last year, the unit averaged 32 babies. Wednesday night there were 42 babies in the unit, beyond the capacity of the old NICU.

The new unit is not something that looks like an old-fashioned hospital ward. Instead, each infant has a separate room and bed that is shared with family and the constantly engaged staff.

"Our new unit will allow our physical plant to match the quality care that parents have come to know and expect," said Sisters President and CEO Martin Boryszak. "Our state-of-the-art space combines the latest technology that focuses on family-centered care. By moving our NICU adjacent to our Mother/Baby unit, we have, in essence, created one centralized location offering more comfort and convenience for our parents, our providers and our staff."

"We nearly tripled the size of our current NICU," said Dr. Robert Dukarm, chief of neonatology. "The single-bed unit will continue to allow us to focus on family-centered care for every baby in our nursery. The additional space in the individual pod will allow families to stay with their babies around the clock. It will provide privacy for breast feeding, pumping and kangaroo care. This will enhance the critical bonding between the baby and his or her parents."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Starting May 1, Sisters will have a neonatologist - a doctor who focuses on newborn medical care - on duty 24/7. The unit is also a center of research on the latest methods and drugs to take kids, often born well before nine months, and turn them into healthy kids leading normal lives.

Buffalo Catholic Bishop Richard Malone came to the event to bless the staff and the unit and say it is part of the church's mission to care for the ill. Monsignor Robert Zapfel said the dedication prayer.

"This place is holy. It's holy now," said Zapfel. "This place is the place where the most vulnerable among us, infants, are cherished and loved. This place is made holy because the people who work here, not only work here, but see it as a calling, a ministry, continuing the healing ministry of Jesus -- and for that we are most grateful and we are very inspired by what you do, each and every day."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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