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Thursday, March 29, 2012 - Region’s first NICU named in memory of Deborah F. Sager

South Jersey Healthcare brings advanced care to its smallest patients

Penny Sager-Rossi presents Carolyn Heckman, Executive Director of the SJH Foundation, and Chet Kaletkowski, President and CEO of SJH, with an initial donation on behalf of the Deborah F. Sager Memorial Fund in the amount of $250,000.  In recognition of this gift, the new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the SJH Regional Medical Center in Vineland has been named in Deborah’s memory.

Vineland, NJ (March 26) – South Jersey Healthcare is proud to announce the opening of the Deborah F. Sager Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Regional Medical Center in Vineland. This $6.5 million, 14,800 square foot expansion and renovation of the nursery brings advanced care for premature, low birth-weight and critically ill infants to our region.

In support of this project, the Deborah F. Sager Memorial Fund provided an initial pledge of $250,000. In recognition of the gift, the NICU has been named in Deborah’s memory.

The Deborah F. Sager Memorial Fund was established in 1979 after the passing of Deborah F. Sager, the daughter of Penny Sager-Rossi and Dr. Eugene Sager. To honor the memory of their daughter, monies raised through local events were put into a restricted fund within the South Jersey Healthcare Foundation for the purpose of enhancing SJH’s children’s health care services.  After 33 years, Debbie’s fund continues to grow and has taken on the incredible opportunity to name the new NICU. Going forward, earnings from the fund will be 100 percent committed to supporting the needs of the neonatal and/or pediatric departments of SJH.

“This enhanced neonatal intensive care unit – which will help so many vulnerable babies to grow strong – is an appropriate way for us to remember the joy and love Debbie brought to us,” said Penny Sager-Rossi. “The Deborah F. Sager Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is a source of pride for not only for the leadership and staff of South Jersey Healthcare, but for all of the region.” 

Contributions from the community, such as those provided by the Deborah F. Sager Memorial Fund, have been critical to the success of the health system for more than 100 years. The SJH family also took great pride in providing a supportive role in the NICU project. Employees came together to raise $154,000 to support the Deborah F. Sager NICU.

Adding a NICU to the advanced health services available at the Regional Medical Center allows local families to receive Level IIIa care for their babies close to home. With the new NICU, highly specialized critical care can now be provided to infants as young as a gestational age of 28 weeks.  This means that South Jersey Healthcare will be able to care for approximately 99 percent of babies born to mothers in its region.

By enabling families to stay local, the stress of a long commute to visit with a critically ill baby is eliminated. In addition, we are able to maintain the same care team from birth to discharge allowing caregivers to become better attuned to the smallest queues and changes in a baby's behavior and condition. They also build a strong rapport with the moms and dads who quickly become vital members of the care team.

The new addition also features expanded Ronald McDonald Family Rooms. Now twice the size, the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms can accommodate multiple families.  Just steps from the Special Care Nursery and the NICU, these suites offer a place for parents to rest and regroup during visitations.

The Deborah F. Sager Neonatal Intensive Care Unit opened its doors on March 15. Providing the latest technology, evidence-based philosophy of care and a highly skilled and experienced care team, the new NICU expects to treat approximately 75 babies within the first year of operation. It is anticipated that this number will grow as partnerships are formed with other hospitals to provide NICU care.

Recently, South Jersey Healthcare announced a partnership with Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. With this partnership comes Nemours' clinical expertise, as well as the backing of a nationally recognized pediatric hospital. At SJH, a team of five Nemours neonatologists provide expert critical care for babies requiring more intensive and specialized care. Nemours pediatric hospitalists are also available to provide 24/7 consultation and evaluation services to emergency room physicians and community pediatricians.  In addition, they provide supervision and management of patients in the 14-bed Inpatient Pediatric Unit.

For more information about the Deborah F. Sager Memorial Fund or how to contribute, please visit the South Jersey Healthcare Foundation website at

SJH is a nonprofit, integrated health care system, providing access to a continuum of health services. SJH provides hospital services, numerous community health clinics, home health services, and specialty services, which serve the medical and health care needs of Southern New Jersey residents.