LFHC’s expanded Neonatal Unit opened on Oct. 20 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York.
The princess, a granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, toured the unit and spoke with several of the doctors and nurses who care for the infants there.
The new Neonatal Unit now occupies what had been the children’s ward of the Luang Prabang Provincial Hospital. The provincial hospital closed its pediatric ward earlier this year. The vacated area was extensively renovated to include new electrical power, water and internet capabilities.
By relocating our Neonatal Unit to the adjacent provincial hospital (75 meters away) we double our bed-space and gain room to better serve the parents of these infants. The unit now has 8 beds in a general neonatal ward, 4 more beds for high-dependency infants and a 4-bed step-down area for babies who need low-intensity, but long-term care. The unit also features a resting room for parents and a breastfeeding room exclusive to nursing mothers. Additionally, the new unit has a clinic area, where discharged neonates can be reviewed, a staff education area and storage space.
A dramatic increase in neonatal patients prompted administrators to launch the expansion project.
LFHC opened the unit in late 2016 in an area that provided space for 6-8 beds. Hospital administrators anticipated that a unit of that size would be sufficient for several years. However, community awareness of our Neonatal Unit and an increase in the local birth rate sparked a surprising number of admissions soon after the unit opened. Furthermore, LFHC admits neonates who would otherwise have been discharged from other hospitals with an expectation that they could not survive.
By mid-2017, the neonatal caseload was taking up 10-12 beds a month and in October the numbers peaked at 15 newborn babies. Our resourceful doctors and nurses made room for the additional neonatal beds in isolated areas with the Emergency Room and Inpatient Department of the hospital. Needless to say, the situation was less than ideal.
Hospital Administrator Simon Young and his staff brainstormed ideas to find a more permanent solution to the lack of bed-space in the Neonatal Unit. In January, he announced that an agreement had been reached with the Luang Prabang Provincial Health Department and the Luang Prabang Provincial Hospital which resulted in the relocation of our Neonatal Unit inside the adjacent provincial hospital.
Renovation costs were financed by a grant from the Ptarmigan Foundation, a Canadian nonprofit organization. The Ping & Amy Chao Family Foundation of Los Altos, California, provided a grant to help finance the costs of operating a larger neonatal unit.