WVU Hospitals receives CON approval to move to Level IV NICU status

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

WVU Hospitals has become the first hospital in West Virginia to receive Certificate of Need (CON) approval to move its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at WVU Medicine Children’s from Level III status to Level IV status. The designation will take effect later this summer.

Baby in an isolette“This designation reinforces the fact that WVU Medicine Children’s is among the best care centers for medically fragile babies,” Amy L. Bush, BSN, MBA, RN, CNOR, chief operating officer for WVU Medicine Children’s, said. “This recognition is significant because it means families of critically ill babies don’t have to travel far from home to receive the best care available. The NICU physicians and nurses provide exceptional care for the some of the sickest babies in the state and region.”

According to the “Guidelines for Perinatal Care” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, NICUs are ranked on levels I through IV, with IV being the highest.

A Level I NICU, also known as a well-newborn nursery) is able to provide a basic level of care to healthy, low-risk newborns. A Level II NICU is a specialty-level facility that can provide care for stable or moderately ill newborns who are born after 32 weeks’ gestation or who weigh more than 1,500 grams at birth with problems that are expected to resolve quickly and are not anticipated to require urgent subspecialty-level services.

Infants born at less than 32 weeks’ gestation, weigh less than 1,500 grams at birth, or have medical or surgical conditions regardless of gestational age, should receive care at a Level III NICU, which are required to have pediatric medical subspecialists, pediatric surgical specialists, neonatologists, neonatal nurses, and respiratory therapists on staff and should be able to provide newborns with ongoing assisted ventilation, perform surgery on site, and have advanced imaging capabilities.

In addition to the requirements for levels I through III, a Level IV NICU must also be located within an institution that has the capability to provide surgical repair of complex congenital or acquired conditions; maintain a full range of pediatric medical subspecialists, pediatric surgical subspecialists, and pediatric anesthesiologists on site; facilitate transport; and provide outreach education.

“Babies born prematurely and those who are critically ill require highly specialized resources and 24/7 multidisciplinary care in order to have the most optimal outcome,” Autumn Kiefer, MD, chief of neonatology at WVU Medicine Children’s, said. “At WVU Medicine Children’s, we know getting the right care, at the right time, in the right place is critical. This designation helps ensure neonates are treated in the right level of NICU and thereby receive high-quality care.”

The West Virginia Health Care Authority approved the Certificate of Need in April.