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Incredible journey: 22 babies move into expanded NICU in Tacoma

Posted on Mar. 5, 2014 ( comments)

Just after sunrise Tuesday, the first of 22 tiny babies began the journey to the new and expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital.

By 11 a.m., all 22 babies were safe and snug in their new private rooms.

The move down the hall and up one floor into the Rainier Pavilion Expansion was possible thanks to the hard work of about 50 expert NICU nurses, respiratory therapists and neonatologists, as well as many ancillary support staff members behind the scenes.

PHOTO ALBUM: Babies move into expanded NICU 

The team even performed a test move the day before, just to make sure they were ready. The babies in the NICU require so much support, they can’t make a 10-minute trip without being monitored.

One of them, Lochlan Thompson, weighed one pound, 10 ounces when he was born at 25 weeks on Dec. 23. The private rooms ensure each infant like Lochlan is protected from unnecessary noise, light and exposure.

“It’s awesome,” said Tyler Thompson, Lochlan’s dad. “It’s private and quiet for the babies, which is nice.”

The switch to private rooms is probably the biggest change since Tacoma General’s NICU opened in 1977.

NICU nurse Betty Blondin, RN, has worked at Tacoma General since 1983.

“Our babies have a far better survival rate because of how advanced we’ve become,” Blondin said.

She’s seen many changes in technology, and now she sees the benefit of the addition of private rooms.

“It will be nice for the babies,” Blondin said. “It will be more quiet, and more private. “There’s more space for ‘kangaroo care’ – skin to skin contact with a parent. The babies are going to have a much better environment.”

The new space is part of a three-phase, $192 million project that will wrap up in 2015.  

“I get up every morning because something new happens every day,” Blondin said. “Especially today.”

When the final phase of the project is complete with the refresh of existing rooms, Tacoma General Hospital will have a total of 40 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit beds and 30 Intensive Care Nursery beds.

FACT SHEET: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital

Only one Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Tacoma is certified to provide care for premature and critically ill newborns, no matter how small their size or how complex their condition. That’s why mothers who want the highest level of NICU care for their baby in Tacoma choose the NICU at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, trusted since it first opened in 1977.

On the 18,000-square-foot third floor of the new Rainier Pavilion expansion, the 30 new private rooms will comfortably accommodate families who are critical partners in caring for fragile newborns in the NICU.

  • Private rooms ensure each infant will be protected from unnecessary noise, lights and exposure.
  • Sleeper sofas allow family members to stay with their babies.
  • For breast milk, each room will have a refrigerator and a warmer.
  • Cupboards can be stocked with supplies from the hallway, to avoid disrupting the baby and family.

Only Tacoma General’s NICU is equipped to treat the smallest and the sickest babies, right here in Tacoma. In fact, other hospitals with lower-level NICU's transfer their youngest, their smallest and their most critically ill babies to Tacoma General’s NICU to receive a higher level of care.

Each year, Tacoma General’s NICU serves more than 500 premature and critically ill newborns. Babies have “graduated” to go home from Tacoma General’s NICU after weighing less than a pound at birth.

For more than 35 years, Tacoma General's NICU has developed the resources and expertise to care for the tiniest premature infants of any gestational age. Of all the hospitals in Pierce County, only Tacoma General has a neonatologist on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Overview: MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital to open new Birth Center, expanded NICU

The seven-story Rainier Pavilion Expansion marks the largest piece of MultiCare Health System’s three-phase project to expand the areas that serve women, newborns and children in Tacoma.

The 115,929-square-foot building, part of MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, will be home to 100 private rooms for patients in the Labor & Delivery Unit, the Mother & Baby Unit, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and two adult inpatient floors.

The departments will transition into the new areas by the end of March.

Up next: After the NICU move, the Labor & Delivery department will move into the new building by the end of March.

The first phase of this project opened in May 2013 when two inpatient floors for kids, including the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, were added to serve young patients at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. The two floors, totaling 47,537 square feet, were added atop the Milgard Pavilion on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Tacoma.

After the birth center and NICU move into the new building, Phase III of the project will wrap up with a refresh and remodel of the vacated spaces, to be completed by the end of 2015.

When this final phase of the project is finished, the project will have added 163,466 square feet of new space and 144,835 square feet of renovated space to MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital and MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.

Posted in: Tacoma

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