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San Joaquin Community Hospital Opens Nine-Bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Childbirth In an effort to provide Kern County with more neonatal intensive care beds and to become a comprehensive center for newborn care, San Joaquin Community Hospital (SJCH) has opened a nine-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

According to Sudhir Patel, M.D., and medical director for the SJCH NICU, over the past 15 years, the number of deliveries in Kern County has risen from 6,000 per year to more than 14,000. However, there has been no increase in NICU beds during this time.

"For anyone who has been keeping track of the NICU needs in this community, there is little doubt that we were in extreme need of more beds," said Dr. Patel. "These beds serve a vital function for our community. Most importantly, they provide the ability to offer high-level neonatal intensive care in Bakersfield instead of having to transport our babies out of the county."

For SJCH, the addition of an NICU bolsters the capabilities of Bakersfield's only 5-Star Maternity Care Center. In the past, 40 percent of babies born at SJCH in need of intensive care were transported over 100 miles away. According to Dr. Patel, with the addition of an NICU at SJCH, transfers will now only take place for those babies needing surgery--around 5 percent.

"Just as we illustrated with our stroke and burn centers, our foremost goal is to build a facility that can comprehensively treat the people of our community," said Robert J. Beehler, SJCH President and CEO. "From our perspective, the NICU meets an immediate community need while enhancing our hospital's long-term success."