Aspirus on protecting newborns through neonatal transports

For the Tomahawk Leader

WISCONSIN – Aspirus Health recently provided information on neonatal transports.

“Some patients, even the littlest, need to be transported to hospitals when complications arise,” Aspirus stated. “In the United States, nearly 70,000 neonatal transports occur annually.”

 This year, Aspirus Wausau Hospital NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) experienced its highest number of neonatal transports.

Aspirus said a total of 62 newborns were transported, with the smallest newborn weighing only 737 grams or 1.6 pounds.

“If a newborn needs specialized care after birth, hospitals will often transport the newborn to specific facilities that have the proper tools and staff equipped to care for their needs,” Aspirus stated. “These transfers will often be to a higher level NICU, such as a level III or level IV care facility.”

Aspirus is a level III NICU, which means it can care for premature newborns starting at 23 weeks gestation, as well as term newborns with critical illness that need any support from the NICU. 

“It can be scary for parents when their fragile newborns need to be moved to another facility,” said Sharon Thimmesch, Aspirus Registered Nurse and Transport Coordinator. “We sometimes are called to pick up babies from hours away, for example Ironwood, and bring them back to get cared for.”

Aspirus said critically ill newborns and new parents rely on the hospital team and technology to provide the best possible environment during transportation.

“Depending on the region, hospital and situation, transfers can be done by ambulance or aircraft (fixed wing or helicopter),” Aspirus stated.

“Time is a big thing,” Thimmesch said. “We want the transport to be as smooth and fast as possible so we can get the newborn the help they need, whether it’s by helicopter or ambulance. For the smallest and most critically ill newborns, reduced transport time between facilities leads to improved outcomes.”

Aspirus said the neonatal transport team plays a crucial role in providing care to ill newborns throughout the entire transport. A neonatal transport team is comprised of a specialized group of nurses, respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners and neonatologists who monitor the newborns’ wellbeing throughout the journey.

“We have an awesome team here at Aspirus,” Thimmesch said. “From the nurses to flight crews, everyone really understands the seriousness and the importance of getting these fragile newborns the care they need as quickly as possible. Each person on the neonatal transport team plays such a crucial role in the entire journey for these little ones.”

“Neonatal transport has an important role in the rural health care community,” Aspirus stated. “With the collaboration of highly skilled staff, and innovative technology, newborns from all over the state can receive the care they need.”

Thimmesch. Photo courtesy of Aspirus.
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