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Grand River Hospital highlights new and expanded services for pre-mature babies

August 19 2010

Newborn babies and families in the Waterloo Region will benefit from new and expanded services at Grand River Hospital, the region’s largest acute care centre for childbirth and children’s programs.

GRH has opened a new screening satellite service in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), in partnership with McMaster Children’s Hospital. The clinic will monitor the developing retinas of infants. This service will provide newborns and families access to screening locally, reducing the need to travel to Hamilton. The hospital has also marked the expansion of the NICU to 22 beds, up from 20.

“Our hospital cares for over 4,300 babies and their families every year through our childbirth and children’s services. Our NICU is also one of the most advanced in the province outside of academic health facilities,” said Susan Robertson, GRH vice president of clinical services and chief nursing officer.

The new satellite clinic screens infants for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a disease affecting premature babies. ROP is a disruption of normal growth of blood vessels in the retina. In severe cases, it may progress to retinal detachment and blindness. ROP screening helps detect the disease in its earlier stages, leading to more effective treatment.

Grand River Hospital’s satellite works with McMaster Children’s Hospital. A trained nurse imager conducts the exam locally, connected to an eye specialist at McMaster via a video conference link. With this arrangement, parents and infants can stay in Kitchener and reduce how often they travel to Hamilton for examinations. It will serve hospitalized infants and others on an out-patient basis.

“This initiative helps infants remain closer to home and receive care sooner than in the past, reduces travel for parents and families, and ensures NICU beds in Hamilton and Kitchener are used effectively. The first few weeks of this ROP screening arrangement have been a great success and it is obvious that this project will continue to grow,” said Dr. Varun Chaudhary, a pediatric and adult vitreoretinal surgeon at McMaster University Medical Centre.

Grand River Hospital’s level two-plus NICU has also benefited from an expansion to 22 beds from 20. The Government of Ontario through the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network provided a funding increase of $650,000 a year to run the new beds. A generous $175,000 donation by the Kavelman Fonn Foundation, through Dennis Kavelman and Karen Fonn, helped pay for medical equipment to support the new beds.

“Our government is pleased to support health improvements that provide closer-to-home service and keep families together,” said Kitchener Centre MPP, John Milloy. “Grand River Hospital continues to meet that goal through these NICU enhancements, by offering renal program satellite dialysis services across Waterloo and Wellington, and the excellent care provided at the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre, to name a few examples.”

Grand River Hospital’s NICU cares for approximately 700 babies a year needing close monitoring from 32 weeks gestation onward. These babies may require brief mechanical ventilation to support breathing; intravenous therapy for medications, hydration and other procedures; and/or specialist-supported interventions that require an intensive care setting. GRH’s NICU features a dedicated multidisciplinary team of nine paediatricians, nurses, lactation consultants, a physiotherapist, a dietitian and a social worker.

“Grand River Hospital’s maternal-newborn and paediatric programs provide a high level of care to patients throughout Waterloo and Wellington,” said Sandra Hanmer, chief executive officer of the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network. “Their work in conjunction with partner health service providers helps provide a range of excellent services to support the growing population throughout our LHIN.”

Grand River Hospital is the region’s largest acute care hospital, with a focus on 14 clinical programs and services. These include cancer care, childbirth, children’s services, complex continuing care, critical care, emergency, laboratory services, medical imaging, medicine, mental health and addictions, pharmacy, rehabilitation, renal/kidney care, and surgery.

For more information, please contact:
Mark Karjaluoto, Director of Communications
Grand River Hospital: (519) 749-4300 extension 2788

Agnes Bongers, Senior Communications Specialist
McMaster Children’s Hospital (905) 521-2100 extension 76056
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