Mercy Fort Smith has been verified as a Perinatal and Neonatal Level IIIA facility by the Arkansas Department of Health. Mercy Hospital Fort Smith is one of five in the state of Arkansas and the only one in the River Valley to receive this designation.
The Mercy maternal and child services team completed the regulatory matrix as outlined by the “Arkansas Neonatal and Maternal Levels of Care Regulations for Levels 1, 2, 3A, 3B and 4,” which consisted of 27 pages of guidelines.
The Level IIIA designation certifies Mercy Fort Smith as a perinatal care center and NICU. Mercy Hospital President Ryan Gehrig said this is an important initiative for the state of Arkansas and a great accomplishment for the Mercy NICU team, Labor and Delivery department and OB/GYN physicians and co-workers.
“The quality of care given by our maternal and child services team has always been a point of pride for our co-workers and community,” Gehrig said. “The verification survey not only looks at the number of premature babies we treat, but also our intensive care support, triage system, transport program, leadership team, nurse-patient ratio, equipment and much more. We have been voluntarily meeting these standards for some time but it is a great milestone, for our hospital and the entire state of Arkansas, to have these standards in place.”
Mercy Neonatologist Victor Coloso, MD, was a member of the Perinatal Regionalization Committee that began the process to create levels of care regulations in 2011. The committee was tasked with determining whether Arkansas should adopt a classification for NICUs and, if so, what those designations would be and how they would be defined. Prior to this new standard, Arkansas was one of only three states in the US with no designated criteria.
“I know many people often wonder what these designations really mean and if they are of real importance to the quality of care delivered at medical centers across the state,” Coloso said. “Studies have shown that if 80-95% of all newborns less than 28 weeks gestation were to deliver in a Level III NICU vs. Levels I and II, 15-25 babies could be saved each year. We also know that only 0.8% of babies were delivered on or before 28 weeks but they accounted for 29.1% of infant deaths in our state. Classifications, such as this one, help us standardize our processes in Arkansas so we know what capabilities each facility has and which are best suited to handle the needs of a premature infant. These standards can help save lives and the Mercy team in Fort Smith is dedicated to exceeding these standards.”
Felisha Mason, MSN, RN, CPN, NE-BC, director for maternal and child services at Mercy, said this designation is an important accomplishment for her team and it will make a large impact on the families coming to Mercy Fort Smith for care.
“By being designated as a Level IIIA facility, we are excited to provide an important service to our local community and nearby hospitals that transfer mothers and newborns to Mercy,” Mason said. “This will allow us to keep the family unit intact and promote bonding. Additionally, the Level IIIA credentialing prevents families from extensive travel and cost to and from Little Rock or Tulsa. Our goal is to provide the mother and baby with the specialized care they need in a location that is close to home.”