Mercy Completes Expansion of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Dec 2, 2014

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, is where premature babies will stay for days, weeks, and sometimes even longer. At Mercy Springfield, completion of phase II of its expanded unit aims to improve service to these infants and their families. KSMU’s Julie Greene has more.

“Let’s pause for a moment to be aware of our merciful God who is always among us,” said Bishop Johnston.

Bishop James Johnston offered a blessing for the Betty and Bobby Allison Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on Tuesday morning. Crews completed the unit’s first phase two years ago, then consisting of 27 beds. Now, the facility has 47—including seven twin rooms, three care-by-parent units, one four-bed room, two isolation units, and 23 single bed rooms. The new space, about 35,000 total square feet, also includes a new classroom and more spacious working facilities for nurses.

A photo of Mercy Springfield's new classroom.
Credit Julie Greene / KSMU

Dr. Melinda Slack is the medical director for Mercy’s nursery. She says now that the project is complete, Mercy can officially close its former NICU; an 8,500 square foot complex capable of holding between 26-30 babies.

“When we were busy, when the old unit was full, we do multidisciplinary rounds with our pharmacists, our social worker, our nurses, our doctors, and the credo was ‘gain five pounds, you can’t make rounds’ because it was just too crowded, but we are trailblazers, and you just have to make do with what you got, and we’re pleased to make due now with what we have,” Dr. Slack said.

Slack says scientific studies have shown that the single bed, single room design decreases the length of stay and infection risk.

“And it improves bonding level for the family and comfort level as they’re taking this extremely fragile baby from the course of hospitalization to home, so it actually better prepares them because they can be there. We have some mothers that sleep in the rooms with the babies,” said Dr. Slack

A photo of one of the newly-finished NICU rooms.
Credit Julie Greene / KSMU

Slack adds that it’s important for preterm infants is to be able to control noise levels. And in an open room like Mercy’s former unit, you couldn’t do that.

“It’s hard to imagine having a one-pound, six-ounce baby born at 23 weeks, which is the margin of viability, and having to sit in an open, crowded room, and as my mother would say, ‘lick your wounds.’ So this allows our families not only privacy, but comfort. And also it’s better for my staff," said Dr. Slack.

Planning for the project took hospital officials around 10 years and eight visits to various newly reformed, state of the art NICUs, laying the groundwork for Mercy’s project.