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Centra In The News

Neo One: Centra Health's neonatal ambulance

Published on Monday November 14, 2022

"We need to transfer your newborn to another hospital." Those are the last words any parent wants to hear especially the parents of premature babies, but now parents in regions without a Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can find comfort knowing their babies will be closer to home and receive excellent care every step of the way.

Thanks to donor support Centra now has NEO ONE, a neonatal ambulance that can pick up critically ill newborns in Bedford, Danville, Farmville, Gretna and Halifax (8000 square mile area) and provide crucial early interventions during transport to the Level 3 NICU in Virginia Baptist Hospital (VBH). Previously, these critically ill babies would have been transferred to NICUs in Roanoke or Charlottesville.

What exactly is a neonatal ambulance? Why is it important?

NEO ONE is a fully customized vehicle outfitted with the advanced technologies of an NICU and the medical staff crucial for treating our tiniest and youngest patients. The baby will be placed in an isolette that provides a warm, quiet environment and allows for monitoring the baby’s heart and lungs during the ambulance ride. The ambulance is equipped with two isolettes in the case of twins.

NEO ONE will also be equipped with a high frequency ventilator (HFV), a ventilator that provides ventilation pressures and oxygen levels that are safer for the neonate's lung needs and has been shown to improve outcomes in newborns with respiratory distress.

According to the March of Dimes, premature birth is the number one cause of death of babies in the United States—so getting a preterm baby into a NICU and starting interventions as soon as possible are critical.

Specialized Medical Staff

NEO ONE is dispatched with a highly specialized team of neonatal caregivers—a NICU RN, a Respiratory Therapist and an Emergency Medical Technician. In some cases, the Centra ONE can fly in the mobile team in advance of the ground vehicle to prepare the baby for transport.

Parents—important members of the neonatal ambulance team

Mom or Dad can ride up front in the ambulance. However, mothers are often unable to travel after giving birth, and in those cases, communication is key. Before leaving, the mobile team will explain the process and equipment and answer questions. The team will call to let them know the baby arrived safely and provide the initial evaluation. Parents can even call the team for updates during transport. (Once the mother can travel, Centra offers lodging at the Dawson Inn a seven-minute drive from the NICU, so she can stay close to her baby).

How many babies will be impacted?

As Lynchburg and outlying areas grow, it is unfortunate but practical to anticipate that the number of critically ill newborns will increase.

Thanks to donor support we can now treat more newborns and keep them closer to home and their parents.

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