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Nemours eyes Wilmington NICU expansion

Katie Tabeling
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 Nemours Children’s Hospital has filed an application to expand its NICU unit by 16 beds, to accommodate the Delaware Valley region’s growing need for bed space.  | PHOTO COURTESY OF NEMOURS

WILMINGTON — Nemours Children’s Hospital is looking to add 16 beds to its Level IV newborn intensive care unit (NICU) as part of a larger vision of expanding its national reputation for pediatric care.

The $17.5 million expansion would include renovating former office space on the second floor of the duPont Pavilion at its Wilmington hospital, next to an existing NICU and operating rooms. It would create 12 private rooms and two twin patient rooms.

If the Health Resources Board (HRB) approves the application, Nemours, formally known as the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, would have 48 NICU beds after the second phase of its expansion. The children’s hospital completed its first expansion of the unit in 2018, which added more than a dozen beds.

Nemours frequently exceeds its number of NICU cribs, which results in moving NICU patients to non-intensive care beds, officials wrote in its application to the HRB, a state board that oversees health care operation investments. The expansion would leave 18 beds for overflow.

Nemours wrote in its application, which the Delaware Business Times received via a Freedom of Information Act request,  that it anticipated applying for 14 additional NICU beds in a future third phase to allow “needed growth in other intensive care beds.”

“Nemours’ goal is to achieve the best outcomes and experiences in children’s health and health care. We believe that the multi-phase expansion of our Level IV NICU is one of many strategies that will enable Nemours to live up to its mission and more for quaternary care,” Nemours spokeswoman Rachel Simpson told the Delaware Business Times.

While Nemours Children’s Hospital has a national presence with 260 licensed beds in Orlando, Fla., and in the Delaware Valley, its facility in the First State is the only children’s hospital. It also offers the only level IV NICU in Delaware, with on-site, pediatric-specific cardiovascular surgery, general surgery and anesthesiology.

Sixty percent of Nemours patients — all under the age of 17 — come from Chester and Delaware counties in Pennsylvania or New Castle County. Another 30% come from Kent and Sussex counties as well as other areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This region represents roughly 2.3 million children.

In 2021, there were 8,653 patient days logged at the Nemours NICU and had an average occupancy rate of 79%

If the NICU expansion is approved, Nemours wrote that it could add roughly 13 full-time equivalent NICU associates, according to its HRB application. In all, that may add another $2.1 million in salaries and benefits.

Nemours brought in $46 million in Delaware revenue in 2021. It employs roughly 99 NICU associates, who are paid a collective $12.3 million in salaries and benefits. In all, Nemours employs 4,000 people in the state, mostly at its Wilmington hospital.

In the last two years, Nemours has rebranded to create a unified brand across the health care system’s five-state footprint, but it’s also forged partnerships with Bayhealth and Beebe Healthcare. It built and operates a pediatric center at the Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus in Milford.

Late last year, the health care system inked a deal with Beebe Healthcare to welcome five pediatric hospitalists to the Sussex County health care system’s emergency room as well as inpatient pediatric unit and delivery.

Since 1989, Nemours has been affiliated with ChristianaCare and the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia to consolidate the majority of inpatient and outpatient pediatric services.

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