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Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast NICU now offering more specialists for patients and families

With more than 1,200 babies born prematurely in Walton and Okaloosa counties in the past three years, families depend on access to critical services close to home at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast’s nationally-recognized Family Birth Place.

As the home of the only neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) serving Walton and Okaloosa county families, Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast continues to make significant investments by adding five new neonatal specialists to provide 24/7 coverage for sick and well newborns. The hospital also established a team to care for premature infants born 10 weeks pre-term and weigh slightly under 3 pounds.

“Expecting mothers can take comfort in knowing that we have a NICU with specially-trained providers just down the hall in case their baby needs it,” said Bryan Walrath, President, Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast.

When Mary Raines of Niceville went into labor nine weeks early last May, the care team at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast discussed care options with Raines and her family. Her son Ezra was one of the first babies born before 33 weeks gestational age cared for at the hospital.

“I tell all my friends I would never go anywhere else to have a baby, we got the best care from this NICU team,” said Raines.

Ezra is now a healthy and thriving one-year-old boy. The Raines family recently celebrated Ezra’s birthday and Mary’s first Mother’s Day, two important milestones made possible by the care she and her son received.

Opened in 2020, the level II NICU was partially funded by a generous $2 million donation from the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. To ensure infants continue to thrive and meet their best potential after they leave the hospital, the hospital connects families with a network of 30 pediatric subspecialists through our partnership with Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart. Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast Family Birth Place was recently recognized on Newsweek’s list of America's Best Maternity Hospitals 2023 at the five-ribbon designation, an award the hospital has received for the past three years. 

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