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Long-time local GP shares vision for specialized pediatric care in Terrace

Husband-and-wife team continue to support northern B.C. families
Gayle Appleton, a retired nurse, and husband Geoff, a retired GP and Campaign Cabinet Co-Chair for the Closer to Home Fundraising Campaign, have been instrumental in efforts to bring a NICU to Terrace as part of the hospital replacement project. Photo courtesy REM Lee Foundation

Dr. Geoff Appleton arrived in Terrace from Britain 50 years ago, and over the course of a long career, which included many rewarding years at Mills Memorial Hospital, the GP and his wife Gayle, a nurse, cared for many families from B.C.’s northwest coast.

For high-risk pregnancies or babies born with challenges, that often meant mom and baby would be whisked off to a neonatal intensive care unit in Vancouver or more recently, Prince George. Sometimes they could travel together; other times, if there wasn’t room, mom would follow as soon as possible, Geoff says, recalling how in the early days, before Medevac teams, local doctors would sometimes personally accompany the newborns.

“It’s often horrendous for parents,” he says, noting that while the care received is invaluable, leaving their family, home and support system can be emotionally, psychologically and physically traumatic for both mom and baby.

Add the financial costs of having to stay in a community far from home, and the impacts are considerable – especially for those who’ve already travelled an hour or more just to get to Terrace.

Vital care, Close to Home

The good news? After many years without specialized pediatric care in Terrace, that experience will happen much less often thanks to a new, four-bed, Tier 3 NICU planned as part of the Mills Memorial Hospital replacement project.

The new Terrace NICU will have four units, each providing everything that’s needed for mom and baby while in care at the Terrace hospital. Photo courtesy the REM Lee Foundation

The “Closer to Home” campaign, led by the R.E.M. Lee Hospital Foundation and supported by the community, will bring the most current models of care for many high-risk, expectant women who walk through the hospital’s doors.

“As a physician in general practice for that many years, who’s had to deal with infants in that situation, having the backup of a NICU will provide premature babies and other babies at risk with specialized nursing care,” says Geoff, who with Gayle has continued to serve the community in retirement with the Dr. REM Lee Hospital Foundation.

“The impacts are significant in what it means for families.”

The NICU will have four units, each providing everything that’s needed for mom and baby while in care at the Terrace hospital, says Geoff, .

And for babies with more serious conditions who still need to spend time out of town, the NICU will let them return home to Mills Memorial much sooner. all, more than 75,000 people, including 40,000 in 28 area First Nations communities, will benefit from the improvements to newborn care. The facility will be able to care for births as early as 34 weeks in regular cases and 32 weeks in emergencies, rather than the current 37 weeks.

Beyond the direct impact on families, the new NICU will also help attract specialists and medical teams to the community, Geoff says. “There are a lot of nurses in the community who would like to get into pediatric care, and with the facilities in place, I’m sure that down the line, some of the training will be here, too.”

For more information and to support this crucial fundraising effort for the new NICU in Terrace, visit:


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