NICU project designed around the babiesWhile demolition crews tear down ceiling tiles and rip out carpet on the fifth floor of Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center, just down the hall tiny babies are learning to eat, breathe and thrive.
While demolition crews tear down ceiling tiles and rip out carpet on the fifth floor of Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center, just down the hall tiny babies are learning to eat, breathe and thrive.
The construction project recently began to create a state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar newborn intensive care unit.
Special care is being taken to make sure the construction work doesn’t affect the babies in the existing NICU.
For example, caregivers have tiny earmuffs on hand — hearing protection that’s designed just for premature babies, typically used when preemies are transported by helicopter or ambulance.
“We want our babies to be in an environment that’s as calm and quiet as possible,” said Dr. Lee Muskovitz, an Essentia Health Neonatologist and NICU Medical Director. “That’s one of the reasons we’re so excited about our new NICU. The 18 individual patient rooms that we’re building will help to create a calming, nurturing setting for each baby and family.”
The entire construction project has been designed with the babies’ needs in mind. Work is taking place in stages — right now, a hallway that held offices, family sleeping quarters and breastfeeding rooms is blocked off. Special ventilation ensures dust and debris doesn’t come close to the NICU.
Once hallway demolition is complete, the new individual patient rooms will be constructed. Babies are expected to move into their new quarters in April. After that, the existing NICU will be renovated to create office space.
Finally, the new Ronald McDonald Family Room will be constructed. The entire project is slated to wrap up by September.
Seeing construction begin has been especially gratifying for the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica who sponsor St. Mary’s Medical Center. Their vision was instrumental in building the original NICU in 1982. Essentia Health East Region Board Chair Sister Kathleen Hofer even wielded a sledgehammer to celebrate work getting under way.
“This wouldn’t be possible without the support from St. Mary’s leadership, along with the Essentia Health Foundation,” said Dr. Muskovitz. “The Foundation’s work to raise $2.5 million for the NICU renovations will benefit families and babies across the region.”