New Mobile ICU Targets Tiniest Patients


    GRAND RAPIDS — Life EMS Ambulance and Spectrum Hospital have been partners in providing emergency care in transit for the area’s youngest patients since the early 1980s.

    Now that effort has some new wheels.  

    Life EMS put a new mobile ICU for newborns on the road earlier this year, thanks to a donation by the Susan B. Lowe Guild of Butterworh Hospital, which covered the cost of the vehicle.

    The mobile ICU provides lifesaving neonatal care to tiny patients transported to the DeVos Children’s Hospital Gerber Neonatal Intensive Care Unit from more than 12 hospitals in more than 50 Western and Northern Michigan counties. The Children’s Hospital comes under the Spectrum Health umbrella of health care facilities.

    The Gerber ICU is the only area neonatal ICU that takes regional referrals and cases from other hospitals, said Bruce Rossman, hospital spokesperson. 

    The mobile unit has two high tech transport isolettes/incubators that provide a specially controlled environment, redundant electrical systems and a high capacity oxygen and medical air systems for extended ventilation support. Personnel from both Gerber Neonatal and Life EMS had a hand in the design and outfitting of the vehicle.

    “As technology improves, we include enhancements with every vehicle we upgrade to,” said Ken Morris, vice president of operations for Life EMS. He said the new vehicle incorporates the newest and best technology, right down to the suspension system that makes the ride as smooth as possible for infants. 

    Mark Meijer, president of Life EMS Ambulance, said the mobile ICU is further evidence that West Michigan leads the nation “with groundbreaking, sophisticated technology.” 

    Life EMS provides the paramedic to operate the vehicle, and the hospital provides two nurses and a respiratory therapist to man the mobile unit. When a call comes in, they’re ready to go, Morris added.

    He said requests for the mobile ICU for newborns average just under one a day.

    “We cover a very large area, up to 200 miles away. When we get a request, in some cases it’s a full day for the transport; six or seven hours of just drive time.”

    DeVos Children’s Hospital cares for more than 36,000 infants and children a year and is staffed by more than 225 physicians, including surgical specialists, oncologists and pediatricians.

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