Special to the Herald-Banner
Hunt Regional Medical Center has taken yet another step forward in serving Hunt County and North Texas citizens with its recently opened Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Babies born prematurely or who suffer an illness, with few exceptions, can now remain in Greenville instead of being transferred to Dallas or other hospitals to receive life-saving care.
That also means the parents can interact with their babies throughout the local hospital stay without having to travel back and forth to the Metroplex.
After three months of rigorous training, policy development and equipment installation and/or adjustments, the unit opened on Feb. 1. It didn’t take long to realize the need for the NICU. In the first month there were 18 admissions. Of those, eight would have had to have been transferred to Dallas, said Dr. Asif Khattak, neonatologist and the director of Neonatology Service.
“Of those 18, all have gone home,” he said.
Richard Carter, CEO of Hunt Regional Healthcare said the need for the NICU has “been evident for some time, and we are very fortunate to have a physician of the quality of Dr. Khattak to initiate this service.
“Our goal is to provide medical care of the highest quality by the best providers without having to drive to Dallas. We are very proud to offer this new service on behalf of our community and the surrounding regional area,” Carter said.
Opening of the unit raised HRMC from a Level 2 neonatal care unit to the top rating of Level 3, Khattak said.
Neonatal care depends on the gestation period at the time of delivery, explained Janet Grandfield, manager of the HRMC nursery. A baby born at 28 weeks would remain in NICU at least until it has reached the normal 38- to 40-week gestation period, she said. Other stays would depend on the outcome of an illness.
Grandfield said she was most pleased with the new service because of the help for the parents who can be with their newborn child and provide nurturing.
Developing the NICU involved hiring 12 nurse practitioners, all new to HRMC, preparing the space in the maternity center, obtaining new equipment, writing policies, training the staff and developing a collaborative work agreement between physician and nurse practitioners, said Dr. Khattak. Protocols and collaboration with the pharmacy, lab, radiology, OT/speech and other departments also had to be established.
Currently room can be made for up to 12 beds in the existing space of what is known as the Truett and Margaret Crim Maternity Center, although future physical expansion could be a possibility, Dr. Khattak says.
Dr. Khattak says he has been pleased with the overall operation of the unit and impressed with the commitment by the hospital administration. Dr. Khattak said Dr. Hassan Farooq, who had been a fellow resident at Texas Tech University, convinced him to come to Greenville.
The father of four says his ultimate goal is to bring a “mini Baylor” here. “I want to provide evidence-based quality care right here in Greenville.” He says very early in his education it became apparent he was destined to take care of little ones.
Before his arrival in Hunt County Dr. Khattak was chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and medical director of the Neonatal unit at Baylor Irving for six years. He had spent nine years as attending neonatologist at Baylor University Medical Center and was also the medical director of Neonatal Transport Team as well as the chairman of Neonatal Research Committee.
He has published several research papers in the field of Neonatology and is currently involved in a large randomized controlled trial testing a therapy to reduce central lines associated infections in extremely premature babies.