Published on March 10, 2015

Owensboro Health Regional Hospital earns NICU Level III status

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital has earned Level III status from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, opening the way for younger, more fragile babies to receive care locally.

Dr. Bridget Burshears, a neonatologist in the NICU, said achieving this is a big milestone for the department.

“It's a big deal. This means we're the largest Level III NICU west of Louisville,” Dr. Burshears said. “Lots and lots of other hospitals have attempted to do this and not accomplished it in as efficient or successful a way as we have.”

Level III NICUs in Kentucky can care for babies that reach at least 27 weeks of gestation and can care for babies of any weight. The previously held Level II status meant the NICU could care for babies 28 weeks and up or babies weighing at least 1,200 grams.

Owensboro Health Regional Hospital has operated a NICU since 2010, but previously could only care for babies needing Level II care at most. Babies needing more intensive care would have to be transferred to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, which is a partner with Owensboro Health.

Moving to the new hospital facility on Pleasant Valley Road in 2013 has been a game-changer, Dr. Burshears said, and ultimately made it possible to achieve Level III status.

“It's been a goal of ours since we opened, but it has to be done in a step-by-step process,” Dr. Burshears said. “One of the things that moving to the new hospital did was allowing us to have enough physical space.”

Dr. Burshears said this will have the biggest impacts on newborns needing higher levels of care, as well as the families of these babies.

“Now these families don't have to be apart for weeks and weeks because their baby is two hours away in Louisville,” Dr. Burshears said. “It keeps their family network intact, with all of their support people nearby instead of miles and miles away.”

And Dr. Burshears said earning this was a team effort from top to bottom. 

“I'm really proud of us being able to get this. It's been a lot of work,” Dr. Burshears said. 

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering and the only hospital in the world to be designated a Signature Sanctuary by Audubon International, Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital, the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprising over 180 providers in 25 locations, a certified medical fitness facility, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center. Owensboro Health has been recognized for outstanding care, safety and clinical excellence by The Joint Commission, U.S. News & World Report and Becker’s Hospital Review. As the largest employer west of Louisville, Owensboro Health has 4,088 employees, and in FY 2015 saw 18,380 inpatient admissions and 823,072 outpatient encounters. A committed community partner, Owensboro Health provided grants of $702,924 in the last year to health, social service, education and arts agencies across the region. For more information, visit