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NICU stock shotRegion's Rotary clubs join forces to outfit NICU with webcams

NICVIEW system is first and only in Massachusetts

Posted: March 2014

“Incredible” is how neonatologist Alan Picarillo, MD, describes the partnership between 11 of the region’s Rotary clubs and UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center (CMC) that enabled the purchase of 30 webcams for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which cares for critically ill newborns.

Called the NICVIEW system, these small video cameras are mounted at each bed space enabling parents, siblings, grandparents and extended family to view the infant in real time, wherever Internet service is available, through a secure connection on any web-enabled device. There is no cost to families to use NICVIEW.

“It’s so hard for parents to leave their newborn at the hospital, in the care of virtual strangers,” said Dr. Picarillo, who is also assistant professor of pediatrics and obstetrics & gynecology at UMass Medical School. “If there’s anything we can do to help families feel more comfortable, we want to do so. And while nothing will ever replace the presence of parents, technology like this can help continue the bonding process when they can’t be there.” The average NICU stay is three weeks, he noted.

The CMC’s 49-bed NICU is the first and only in the state—and the sixth in the entire nation—to implement the NICVIEW system. It started in 2012 with a six-camera pilot program that was funded by Xerox.

“Within months of installing these first few cameras, we had a long waiting list of family members wanting access,” said Picarillo. “Rotary stepped in at the perfect time with additional fundraising.”

“Our members didn’t need much persuasion to get involved,” said Roy Balfour, Rotary District 7910 Foundation chair. “There was a humanitarian need to help parents and families connect with their newborns and Rotary wanted to help.”

Ten clubs from the Rotary district serving Central Massachusetts joined forces. Each club contributed as well as encouraged individual business members to purchase cameras at $1200 each. The businesses that responded include Southbridge Savings Bank, United Lens, Webster5 Bank, The Guru Tax & Financial Services and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, among others.

Many of these donations were further amplified by matching grants from the Rotary Foundation. “By donating through Rotary, they were able to double the impact of their gift,” Balfour said.

Camera purchases were also supported by the proceeds of the 20th annual Tee Up for Tots golf tournament, the TDD Triathlon held in September 2012, gifts from Carol and Michael Sleeper and Imperial Distributors Inc., and contributions by a variety of individual donors.

In addition, the Rotary of Marlborough’s Rotoract Club, which consists of college-age members, raised enough funds to purchase a camera as well as help with annual maintenance expenses of the NICVIEW system. Each webcam displays its donor’s name right on the screen, so whoever logs on sees who made the viewing possible. As of fall 2013, the UMass Memorial NICVIEW system has had log-ins from every town in Massachusetts, 40 states, 26 countries and six continents.

“This is a wonderful way to have a global reach by doing a project for the local community,” Balfour noted.

“There’s a lot of synergy between our two organizations,” Picarillo added. “A regional presence like Rotary and our regional NICU that admits patients from every city and town in Central Massachusetts—it’s a nice pairing for the communities we serve. They’ve been such incredible partners on this project.”

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you pull people together,” Balfour said. 

Story published in the 2013 Annual Report of Donors (pdf).