Family donates $20,000 to Victoria NICU

The current neonatal intensive care unit at the Victoria Hospital measures about 350 square feet. The new space will be more than ten times larger. Facebook photo.

The campaign for improved intensive care for infants in Prince Albert got a significant boost recently with a $20,000 donation from a local family. 

Kelly and Susi Miller chose to give money to the effort after their 10th grandchild needed to use the NICU, which brought home just how important the need was. 

“We all hear of the need, but seldom do we act until it affects us personally,” Kelly said in a press release issued by the Victoria Hospital Foundation, which is leading the fundraising drive for the Malhotra NICU.  “A decade ago, Susi and I were blessed with our tenth grandchild. Very soon after birth, the baby required medical attention not available in Prince Albert.” 

Kelly said parents have enough to worry about when they have a medically-fragile child without having to do it far from home. 

In the fall of 2018, the Victoria Hospital Foundation launched a $5 million dollar campaign to build and equip  a state  of the  art, level  2  NICU for  sick babies  born  in  the north. To  date,  the  community and Foundation have raised just over $3M. 

It took six months for the Foundation to raise the $2.2 million needed to construct the unit, which is now finished. 

“Construction is complete,” said Sherry Buckler, Victoria Hospital Foundation CEO. “They are now recruiting staff. This has created jobs, and good paying jobs too, like nutritionist.” 

Some staff are getting additional training to meet the criteria of being a Level 2 NICU. 

The new facility will be able to care for 11 newborns and their families and a key change will be the ability of parents to stay with their infants and have privacy at the same time. 

The current NICU is a 350 square foot room that is meant to accommodate four babies but has had as many as 11 at once. 

“It’s tiny and it’s an infection control risk and there is no privacy,” Buckler explained.

The primary concern was to address the lack of space, which has been accomplished. 

Fundraising and donations such as that given by the Millers will be continuing for a while. 

“Equipment is being ordered as it is fundraised,” Buckler said. “We have equipment but it is old and at end of life. We’re ordering new equipment to replace some of the old stuff.”

The SHA says that the new unit will be operational by spring. 

Outcomes are better when the babies and parents can be near home and close to support systems like families and friends. It also eliminates some of the expenses associated with having to stay in another community to be near your child. 

That point was driven home and helped the Millers decide to donate. 

“Knowing your child needs specialized care is enough of a burden not to add the complication of being 85 miles from home. Travelling in the dead of a Saskatchewan winter, the expense of missing work and living in a hotel added to the anxiety of the situation,” said Kelly. 

“Only then did we understand the vital addition that our own NICU could provide. And of course not having the creature comforts of home only added to the anxiety. We truly have a need for this unit. It has been a long time coming.”

The money from the Millers will be used to help buy equipment. 

“Our Foundation and medical teams are deeply thankful to Kelly and Susi Miller for their commitment to local healthcare and their incredible generosity. Their gift will help us to fund a state of the art medication dispensing system for the new Malhotra NICU.  It’s this kind of technology that is made possible only because of our donors and community,” said Buckler.

When Ken and Susi Miller’s grandson needed NICU care 10 years ago, they learned how valuable having it locally available can be.