I wanted to bring to you a serious concern that I feel may have a potentially detrimental effect on the families and community of Northwest Arkansas.  At the request of the Governor, the Arkansas Department of Health in conjunction with UAMS, ACH, Baptist Health and the March of Dimes (Little Rock) have developed a committee to identify criteria for the classification of neonatal care units in Arkansas.  The proposed criteria deviate from the American Academy of Pediatrics latest recommendations, and have a potentially negative impact on local access to care for premature infants for the families of NWA.     The northwest Arkansas community has had a fully functioning level III NICU for over 11 years with the Northwest Health System.  Since early 2008, it is located at Willow Creek Women's Hospital with a bed capacity for 24 sick/premature infants.  We have state of the art equipment with 2 full time Neonatologists, 5 full time Neonatal nurse practitioners, skilled level III NICU nursing staff and dedicated Neonatal respiratory therapists.  The Willow Creek Women's Hospital NICU has been taking care of very sick/extremely premature newborns for our community with great success and with great outcome data. For the past 2 years, the infant mortality date is on par with UAMS.     What the committee is proposing will take away this service for our NWA expectant families by limiting the number of preterm babies that can be delivered here.  By transferring these babies to Little Rock, the families will have to travel long distances, be without their homes and family support, incur extra living expenses, and sacrifice time bonding with their infants due to the inconvenient 3 hour drive.  The immediate transfer of these infants seems also unethical due to their extreme fragility in the first few days after birth, increasing the risk for mortality and severe morbidity.   I am passionate about providing excellent care to these patients, and we provide it well.  Willow Creek NICU should remain an option for the families of NWA.  Please consider taking the time to construct a letter/email to Dr. Halverson, Director and State Health Officer, your district legislator, or the Governor:     [email protected] ADH c/o Dr. Paul Halverson 4815 West Markham Little Rock, AR  72205   Governor Mike Beebe State Capitol Room 250 Little Rock, AR 72201

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