News and Information

October 3, 2012

Seattle Children’s Hospital To Provide Neonatal Intensive Care at Franciscan Birth Centers

Seattle Children’s Hospital neonatologists and neonatal nurse practitioners will provide 24/7 care to premature and critically ill newborns at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, and around-the-clock neonatal support and consultation at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way and St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw, beginning in early 2013.

This new partnership with Franciscan Health System will expand the availability of specialized neonatal care in the South Sound region through a collaborative neonatal medical team, and provide continuing education and training for Franciscan providers and staff.

As a teaching hospital, Children’s is focused on providing the best care and the latest advances to newborns and to the staff who care for them.

“Seattle Children’s is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 children’s hospitals in the country. We look forward to partnering with their skilled neonatology team to offer outstanding care for medically fragile newborns and their families in our community,” said St. Joseph Medical Center President Syd Bersante, who provides regional executive oversight of Franciscan women’s services. “We are committed to excellence every day in every life we touch. Our partnership with Children’s reflects our focus on advanced medicine and trusted care.”

In March, Franciscan received approval from the Washington State Department of Health to open a Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for premature and critically ill infants born at St. Joseph Medical Center. The Level III designation allows St. Joseph staff to care for newborns that are as young as 28 weeks’ gestation (born 12 weeks before the due-date) or as small as 1000 grams (2 pounds, 2 ounces). It also permits the hospital to offer more advanced care.

The 18-bed, Level II special care nursery at St. Joseph is being expanded and remodeled to include the new five-bed Level III NICU that is scheduled to open in the summer of 2013. The Children’s team will work closely with the Franciscan team in on-site management of the daily operations of the Level II and Level III beds at St. Joseph, and the Level II beds in the special care nursery at St. Francis Hospital.

The Franciscan Birth Centers in Tacoma, Federal Way and Enumclaw deliver more than 5,000 babies annually. More than 3,800 babies are born every year at St. Joseph Medical Center alone, making it the busiest birth center in the South Sound and the sixth-busiest in the state. Approximately 10 percent of newborns need Level II or Level III intensive care. The addition of the Level III NICU at St. Joseph and the partnership with Children’s will help ensure that premature and critically ill newborns can receive the most advanced care where they are born, minimizing the need to transfer them to another hospital for special care. Such transfers can be difficult and inconvenient for parents who are already emotionally stressed because their baby has been born prematurely or ill.

“Children’s is very pleased to work with the Franciscan Health System to help provide an enhanced level of neonatal care for infants in the South Sound region,” said Sandy Melzer, MD, senior vice president of Seattle Children’s. “Our collaboration helps ensure the most fragile newborns can receive the best specialized care close to home.”

St. Joseph Medical Center is the fourth regional hospital with a Level III NICU to partner with Children’s neonatology services. The other NICUs are at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue and Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s Hospital serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Children’s has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit

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