Kadlec Medical Center NICU Making Space for More Babies - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Kadlec Medical Center NICU Making Space for More Babies

Posted: Updated:

RICHLAND, Wash.-- Premature babies need special care and the only level three neonatal intensive care unit between Spokane and Seattle can be found right here in the Tri-Cities, but the NICU at Kadlec needs more space.

Four hundred premature babies receive care at Kadlec Regional Medical Center every year. That number keeps rising as the population in the region climbs.

Now the hospital is preparing to expand so they can keep helping premature babies.

Joey is 16-days-old now. Born premature, his little lungs are working hard to keep him going. He wouldn't make it if it weren't for the Kadlec Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

"They're providing the best care that he needs and could possibly get and it just means the world to us," said Kristen Hurlbert, Joey's mother.

Kadlec has the only NICU in the region that can treat the most severe preemie cases.

Ten percent of babies are born prematurely and as the area continues to grow, so does the demand for the NICU's services.

"It's very hard. We just move babies around constantly. Sometimes we refuse transfer because we don't have enough beds," said Dr. Anthony Hadeed, the neonatologist caring for Joey.

Forty percent of the babies in the NICU come from outside the Tri-Cities, but the struggle to make room for all the newborns coming in is sending many out.

"After we train the mom how to take care of her baby, then we send them home a little bit earlier than we like to because our space is so limited," Hadeed said.

Kadlec is preparing for a $10 million remodel that will make the unit five times bigger, provide private rooms for families and add 10 more bassinets.

Hospital administrators said they feel it's their obligation to save premature babies and give parents hope that their child will grow up happy and healthy.

"Tugs at your heart strings to spend sometime in here and see the babies and to see the families and to celebrate the great outcomes that we have," said Larry Christensen, Executive Director of the Kadlec Foundation.

"Knowing that he was premature, but he will be able to make it and we'll be able to take him home healthy and if we need to bring him back," Hurlbert said.

The Kadlec Foundation has raised $6 million so far for the project that they hope to start construction on this summer and finish in 12 months.