With hard hats and sledgehammers in hand (the play kind, of course), more than a dozen graduates of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Sisters of Charity Hospital joined with representatives from Sisters Hospital and Sisters Hospital Foundation for a ceremonial “wall breaking” to kick-off construction of the hospital’s new $8.8 million NICU. The new unit, which is scheduled to open later this year, will enable the hospital to relocate and expand its current NICU from 20 to 40 beds.

“With more than 3,300 births in 2016, Sisters delivers more babies than any other hospital in Western New York and more than any hospital in the state, west of Syracuse,” said Peter Bergmann, hospital President & CEO. “Our new NICU will give us the ability to meet the growing need for this specialized care, as well as provide greater comfort and privacy for our families and expanded workspace for our doctors, nurses and support staff.”

With its Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Sisters Hospital is equipped to care for premature infants as young as 23 weeks and full-term babies with special needs. The new 21,000 square-foot NICU will be located adjacent to the hospital’s inpatient maternity unit and newborn nursery, creating one centralized location for mother-baby care. Besides creating a more modern, efficient and family-centered setting, construction plans for the new NICU call for:

  • Utilization of existing space on the hospital’s second floor that will not interrupt care provided in the current NICU on the fourth floor.
  • Single family rooms designed to enhance individualized care.
  • Large, central technology hub to accommodate the most intensive care requirements.
  • Dedicated “parents-only” space and overnight accommodations for families.
  • Reduced light and sound control to create a more soothing environment for premature babies.

The Western New York region has experienced growth in recent years, not only in the number of births, but also in the number of premature babies, multiple births and low birth weight babies. There are many contributing factors, including advanced maternal age, fertility treatments and maternal health issues, such as obesity, gestational diabetes and drug dependency.

For Sisters Hospital, that translated into more than 650 babies cared for in its NICU in 2016. “The hospital’s NICU is operating at 100 percent of its current licensed capacity 95% of the time,” said Aimee Gomlak, Vice President of Women’s Services for Catholic Health. “We want to continue delivering the high quality neonatal care Sisters Hospital is known for, in a facility that better meets the needs of our tiniest patients, their families and the staff who care for them with such dedication and expertise.”

As part of a $2 million capital campaign to help fund the NICU project, Sisters Hospital Foundation has raised more than $1.7 million towards its goal. “The Western New York community and our own Catholic Health and Sisters Hospital family have been extremely generous and we expect to reach our campaign goal in the coming months,” said Michael Lawley, campaign chairman. “I’d like to thank all our donors for recognizing and supporting this important project for our hospital, our patients and our community.”

Sisters of Charity Hospital is part of Catholic Health and was the area’s first hospital, founded by the Daughters of Charity in 1848. In addition to Sisters Hospital, Catholic Health has maternity services at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, including a Level ll NICU, and Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston.