Le Bonheur to Expand Neonatal Intensive Care to Serve Greater Number of Critically Ill Babies

Published On 07/11/2011

Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center won approval on December 17 from the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency to expand its neonatal intensive care services by 30 beds.  In a related move, Methodist North Hospital also gained permission to close its Family Birthing Unit and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  Methodist North’s 10 NICU beds will be shifted to Le Bonheur Children’s, reducing the hospital’s incremental bed request to 20.


Le Bonheur is expanding its neonatal cardiothoracic surgery and maternal fetal medicine services and will need additional neonatal beds for those services. The hospital currently operates 30 neonatal beds. The addition brings the hospital’s total bed count to 255 in the new facility scheduled to open in 2010.  Methodist North cited declining birth rates in its service area as the reason for its request.


The decision to file these CONs came after careful analysis by the leadership of Le Bonheur, Methodist North and parent organization Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. 


“We are very pleased to be getting these additional beds to care for the most critically ill babies in our region,” said Meri Armour, president and CEO, Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center.  “Our neonatal program is growing as we perform more surgeries. The 30 additional beds will allow us to ensure that these neonates can be treated locally and that their families won’t have to travel out of the region for care.”


“One advantage of being a large health care provider with hospitals located in all parts of the Memphis area is that we can adjust service offerings across our system to best meet patient needs while operating as efficiently as possible,” said Gary Shorb, President and CEO, of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.


While obstetrics and NICU volume at Methodist North have been declining in recent years, the hospital is currently experiencing growth in several areas, particularly cardiac and orthopedic procedures, and its new Robotic Surgery Center, featuring the da Vinci robot, which provides state-of-the-art minimally invasive surgery for urology, gynecology, cardiothoracic and colorectal patients.  The hospital is nearing completion of its renovated emergency department and recently received re-certification by the national Society of Chest Pain Centers. 

At Le Bonheur, high NICU occupancy rates – in addition to new services – contribute to the need to expand. The 15-bed NICU opened in 2004 with occupancy consistently over 90 percent with a 95 percent occupancy rate in 2007. In 2008, Le Bonheur was granted approval to open 15 additional NICU beds approved in a prior CON. The occupancy rate for the 30-bed unit is currently 88 percent, which is very high for a unit of this type.

Le Bonheur Children’s provides a critical service to babies who need the highest level of care. Le Bonheur hosts the area’s only Level III C NICU designated by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Le Bonheur’s neonatal intensive care unit is able to provide continuous life support and comprehensive care to newborns with complex illnesses and high-risk conditions. The hospital also provides Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) and surgical repair of serious congenital cardiac defects. Additionally, a Level III C unit offers state of the art respiratory care, such as high-frequency ventilation and inhaled nitric oxide.

The Le Bonheur Children’s NICU is staffed with board-certified neonatologists, each certified in neonatal medicine as well as in pediatrics; certified neonatal nurse practitioners; respiratory therapists; case managers; neonatal nutritionists; pharmacists; nurses; social workers; lactation consultants; rehabilitation therapists and child life therapists. Additionally, NICU patients have full access to the medical and surgical subspecialty services provided at Le Bonheur.

Founded in 1952, Le Bonheur Children’s is the Mid-South’s first and only comprehensive pediatric medical facility. Every year Le Bonheur treats almost 140,000 children from 47 states and many countries. Le Bonheur is home to one of the nation’s 10 busiest pediatric emergency departments and hosts one of the largest pediatric surgical brain tumor programs.

Le Bonheur Children’s is building a new state-of-the art hospital. The $327-million facility is scheduled to open in 2010 and will double the space for patient care, research and teaching. For more information, please call (901) 287-6030 or visit www.lebonheur.org.

Located on New Covington Pike, 220-bed Methodist North Hospital has been serving the residents of Raleigh, Bartlett, Frayser, Millington and Tipton County for three decades.  In 2007, Methodist North served 9,600 inpatients, 43,000 outpatients and 45,000 emergency room patients.  For more information, visit www.methodisthealth.org.