LONDON, Ky. (WKYT) - St. Joseph Health London wants to become the second hospital in southern and eastern Kentucky to have a neonatal intensive care unit, but they need a lot of donations to pull it off.
"The cost of this level of care is extreme," explained Leslie Smart, president of CHI St. Joseph Health Foundation. "Board-certified neonatologists, nurse practitioners 24/7, and the specialty equipment that goes into creating a NICU -- very specialized equipment."
The hospital needs $1.4 million, and it is asking the community for the donations because it believes having its own NICU will be a huge benefit for the community.
OBGYN Dr. Charles Barton told WKYT currently between 60 and 70 babies of the 1100 born at the hospital have to be sent to the University of Kentucky Medical Center for more advanced care.
"The whole family can't travel that distance to go to Lexington and help care for the newborn and be around and support the mother," he said.
Most of the reason the newborns have to be transported to UK is because of drug use by the mother.
"There's been a huge rise in the number of babies we're seeing that are needing that extra care," Dr. Barton explained.
Fifteen percent of the babies born at Saint Joseph London in 2017 had drugs in their system. But the NICU isn't just needed for babies born dependent on drugs. Dr. Barton said more women are having babies later in life.
"So you'll see more diseases like diabetes, hypertension. and those babies are at risk for having pre-term birth and needing extra care around delivery."
hospital administrators believe these reasons are enough to raise funds for the new NICU. If the NICU is built, it will keep 80 percent of the babies from being transferred to UK for treatment.