Summerville Medical Center closer to opening Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Summerville, SC – Imagine having to travel 35+ minutes each day to visit your newborn – for weeks. That’s what new parents in Summerville, N. Charleston and surrounding communities have been doing for decades and it’s why Summerville Medical Center is excited to announce they’re closer to receiving Certificate of Need (CON) approval to elevate to a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“We’re committed to ensuring that families don’t have to travel far from home to receive compassionate care,” said Assaad Merchak, MD, Neonatology Medical Director at Summerville Medical Center.
Summerville Medical Center has been working to move to Level III status for about a decade to meet the needs of its growing community. Appeals and court filings have caused this long delay. Recently, the SC Administrative Law Court upheld the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) decision to approve Summerville Medical Center’s CON application.
In just the last two years, hundreds of families throughout the region have had to fight Charleston traffic and drive past Summerville each day to visit their newborns – when that care could have been provided in their community.
“Moving to a Level III NICU allows us to keep more families together while caring for their sick little one,” Merchak said. “We are able to expand on our Level II services to bring this higher level of care.”
The difference between a Special Care Nursery and a NICU comes down to the acuity level of the newborn that can be cared for at the hospital. A Level II Special Care Nursery can provide care for stable or moderately ill newborns who are born after 32 weeks gestation or who weigh more than 1,500 grams at birth. A Level III NICU can care for infants who are born at less than 32 weeks gestation, who weigh less than 1,500 grams at birth, who require ventilatory support for more than 24 hours, or who have complex medical or surgical conditions regardless of gestational age.
A Level III NICU is staffed by a highly trained multi-disciplinary care team including on-site 24/7 neonatologists, neonatal nurses, pediatric subspecialists, pediatric surgical specialists, pediatric radiology, respiratory therapists and other specialists who can provide newborns with ongoing assisted ventilation, perform surgery on site, and provide advanced imaging capabilities.
Summerville Medical Center is unique in that it currently staffs its Level II Special Care Nursery like a Level III NICU. The hospital’s transition from a Special Care Nursery to a Level III NICU would be immediate.
In 2022, mom Amanda Sweezy delivered twins Campbell and Beckett at 32 weeks. The twins spent 20 days in the Special Care Nursery before discharging home.
“Our babies were treated like they were more than just patients,” commented Sweezy. “The nurses and doctors treated them like they were their own children, which made it easier to go home at night knowing they would have their medical needs met as well as being loved on. Summerville Medical Center is 15 minutes from home for our family; being so close meant we could visit multiple times a day while also caring for their older sister at home. My husband was able to return to work and still visit each day. We are forever grateful to them for giving our babies the best start in the world and making a really difficult time for us so much easier.”
More than 300 infants are cared for each year in Summerville Medical Center’s Special Care Nursery. In 2019, the hospital completed a $61 million women’s and neonatal expansion designed to add additional beds, neonatal services and state-of-the-art equipment. The unit offers 16 beds, a rooming-in room, and is the only Lowcountry hospital offering NICView, state-of-the-art technology that makes it easy for families to watch their newborn anytime, anywhere, and on any device through a 24/7 secure portal.