Vt. hospitals partner to help babies in need of critical care

Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 6:28 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2023 at 8:07 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A new partnership between Vermont hospitals could be a lifesaver for babies in need of critical care. The technology connects rural doctors with specialists at the UVM Medical Center.

Copley and North Country hospitals now have telemedicine equipment when transporting premature newborns. It allows audio and visual communication in rural areas to connect with the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

“The beauty of the telemedicine is that organizations can be distant and apart and helping individuals in their community,” said Michael Del Trecco, the president and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

Newborns in need of critical care are often transported to the only neonatal intensive care unit in Vermont at the UVM Medical Center in Burlington. That could mean a drive of more than an hour where every minute matters.

Cameras placed inside ambulances and hospital rooms can make the difference, connecting providers with specialists.

“While everyone plans for a healthy newborn, not everyone plans on the possibility of complications requiring special care,” Dr. Steven Soriano, the chief of pediatrics at Copley Hospital, said in a statement. “Having access to this level of technology ensures a more positive outcome for the newborn.”

“This opportunity will increase the quality of our neonatal care even further and greatly benefit our youngest patients,” Dr. Alexandra Bannach, the pediatrics medical director at North Country Hospital, said in a statement.

Dr. Charles Mercier, the director of the UVM Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, talked about the goal of the partnership.

“To support care for at-risk or ill-infants in community hospitals throughout Vermont,” Mercier said.

The cameras allow for real-time care during the transport process, giving UVMMC doctors access to see what’s happening with the baby and to share potentially lifesaving advice.

Mercier says it should ease some parents’ worries.

“Reassuring the parents that their connection with elevated or specialized care happens almost immediately when there’s a decision made that the baby needs to be transferred,” he said.

Depending on the health of the baby, respiratory therapists, nurses and physicians can collaborate on how to take care of the newborn.

Officials hope to have the high-tech cameras in all of the hospitals in Vermont.