BOZEMAN HEALTH FILE

Bozeman Health Deaconness Hospital is shown in this Chronicle file photo. 

Bozeman Health and Helena’s St. Peter’s Health announced Wednesday a new partnership with a Seattle hospital in hopes of bringing neonatal expertise and guidance to the region.

Seattle Children’s Hospital will provide “expertise on best practices, technical guidance, and training” as the two hospitals expand a neonatal care and maternal fetal medicine program in Bozeman, according to a news release. The Seattle hospital operates a top-level neonatal intensive care unit.

Bozeman Health and St. Peter’s Health announced their partnership in September that will allow Helena patients to access neonatal services being expanded at the Bozeman hospital. The two will work together on the expansion.

Bozeman Health plans to open the new women and children’s tower in the fall of 2020.

The Seattle partnership is meant to augment this expansion, Bozeman Health CEO John Hill said. He said it will allow providers in Bozeman or Helena to pick up the phone and know that a nationally renowned expert in Seattle will answer.

“We’re going to be able to bring that level of expertise in a very immediate fashion and that’s really going to be part of the day-to-day work of this collaboration,” Hill said.

Hill said that Bozeman Health already consults with Seattle Children’s on difficult medical cases and to coordinate care for patients who need to be transferred out of Bozeman. He said the new partnership will strengthen their relationship.

Hill said the search for a partner like Seattle Children’s has been going on for the better part of a year. He said clinical leaders at both hospitals aided in the search, and that Seattle Children’s ended up making the most sense.

Craig Jackson, doctor and division head for neonatal program development for Seattle Children’s, said in the news release the hospital is looking forward to the collaboration.

“Research shows that bringing high-quality neonatal care close to home improves immediate and lifelong outcomes,” Jackson said.

Wade Johnson, St. Peter’s Heath CEO, said Seattle Children’s brings more than national recognition and academic expertise.

“(Seattle Children’s) has a history of supporting rural communities. They bring the academic background, but they also understand the challenges that come with caring for rural communities,” Johnson said.

The Seattle Children’s website lists six affiliate hospitals in Alaska, 13 in Washington and three in Montana — Community Medical Center in Missoula, Great Falls Clinic and St. Vincent’s Healthcare in Billings. The Seattle hospital offers expertise in specialties like gastroenterology, neurology and rheumatology to its other affiliates in Montana.

A Seattle Children’s neonatal nurse practitioner will be on hand to help guide Bozeman Health’s transition to an expanded NICU and maternal fetal medicine program.

Bozeman Health’s special care nursery can care for babies delivered at 34 weeks, and St. Peter’s can care for babies delivered at 35 weeks. When the expansion is finished, Bozeman Health will be able care for babies delivered at 32 weeks, raising the NICU to a level II unit.

Bozeman Health hopes to transition to a level III NICU within a year of its expansion, providing care to babies delivered as early as 28 weeks.

At the core of these partnerships, Hill said, is a desire to keep patients close to home. He said having Seattle Children’s expertise on-call in addition to expanded services will allow the hospital to care for babies it may not have been able to care for in the past.

Johnson called the partnership a win-win-win.

“Being able to have them at the table with us is just a real strength to our local communities,” Johnson said.

Shaylee Ragar can be reached at sragar@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2607.

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