Yes for WakeMed nursery, not Rex

Staff WriterSeptember 17, 2009 

WakeMed has won state regulators' approval to expand its nursery for premature and at-risk newborns.

The $8.9 million project will add 12 beds at Wake Med's main Raleigh campus, giving it 48 neonatal intensive care beds.

But a similar expansion proposed by WakeMed's crosstown Raleigh rival, Rex Healthcare, was rejected by the state office that reviews medical projects.

Rex has appealed the decision, plans to supply additional data to the state and expects to win approval by year's end, spokeswoman Melody Hunter-Pillion said.

"It was nothing I would consider major," she said. "The state thought we should provide some better data. We still feel like the community needs this."

Gene DePorter, the analyst with the state certificate of need office who reviewed both bids, declined to comment, because the Rex decision is under appeal.

Rex proposed adding six beds to its neonatal nursery, which has 15 beds. Rex and WakeMed applied for permission to expand earlier this year.

WakeMed's plan will convert neonatal rooms to private rooms, with extra space for parents and doctors. The project is tied to a new children's hospital on the top floor of a four-story patient tower that WakeMed is building on its main campus. That building is scheduled to open by early next year.

WakeMed's expansion is one of the health-care projects underway or planned in the Triangle as hospitals bet that demand will continue to increase despite the economic downturn.

Hospital officials say the need for intensive care for infants is increasing, fueled by the region's growing population, fertility drugs and women having babies later in life.

"We are consistently running at or above capacity, and as the region grows and multiple births become more frequent, we are seeing a greater need for neonatal intensive care services," said Susan Gutierrez, manager of WakeMed's intensive care nursery.

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