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Expansion and Renovation of MeritCare Childrens Hospital Is Complete New StateOfTheArt NICU Unveiled

On Friday, Jan. 13, and Saturday, Jan. 14, 2005, MeritCare Health System, 801 Broadway N., Fargo, will be unveiling its new state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The unit is part of MeritCare Children's Hospital, which also includes the general pediatric unit and the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU); it is adjacent to MeritCare Family Birth Center.

On Friday, Jan. 13, and Saturday, Jan. 14, 2005, MeritCare Health System, 801 Broadway N., Fargo, will be unveiling its new state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The unit is part of MeritCare Children's Hospital, which also includes the general pediatric unit and the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU); it is adjacent to MeritCare Family Birth Center.

From 9:30-10:30 a.m. on Jan. 13, the media will have an unprecedented opportunity to tour the unit; on Saturday, Jan. 14, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., the public is invited for an open house.

While nine out of 10 births are normal, for that one baby in 10, high-level specialty neonatal care is critical. MeritCare's team cares for approximately 350 babies per year; babies are often brought to MeritCare by the organization's neonatal transport team via ground ambulance, or via MeritCare LifeFlight (fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter) from throughout North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

Additional facts:
  • MeritCare Children's Hospital renovation and expansion – Phase I of MeritCare Children's Hospital expansion and renovation included the general pediatric unit and the PICU. Phase II includes the completion of the NICU, playroom, additional general pediatric patient rooms, as well as patient overflow rooms for the birth center.
  • Fourth floor of MeritCare – The entire fourth floor of MeritCare Hospital is now dedicated to hospital services that care for babies and moms from pre-birth (Family Birth Center) up until children's teenage years (children's hospital).
  • History of NICU – Established in the early 1970s, the NICU was most recently a 26-bed unit; it's now been expanded to 32 beds.
  • New design – The new design of the unit is a major departure from the old design, which was basically one big room. A new "pod" design allows families more private space and storage space. There is also a portion of the unit that is specifically designed for multiples – twins, triplets and quadruplets.
  • Environmental factors – The new design of the unit also incorporates environmental conditions known to help babies heal – low-level lighting and lower sound levels.
  • Surgical suite – The unit now includes a fully equipped surgical suite.
  • Security system – The new NICU will be a locked unit; in addition, all babies will wear security wristbands. If a baby is brought near an exit door and staff hasn't made note in the computer system, an alarm will sound.
  • Multi-disciplinary team – Team includes six board-certified and one board-eligible neonatologist (specialists in the care of premature and ill infants); three neonatal nurse practitioners; neonatal intensive care nurses; neonatal therapists (respiratory, physical and occupational); social workers; a pediatric pharmacist; and a pediatric nutritionist.
  • Special computer/information systems – Staff is able to stay up-to-date on each babies latest test results and other information via wireless computer systems that are right at the bedside. In addition, a new, remote monitoring system allows nurses to track the vital signs of infants in their care even when they're not right at the bedside.
  • Web cam – In the near future, parents who are not able to visit their baby as often as they would like will be able to see their baby from their home via a secure page on meritcare.com featuring the NICUs new web cam system.
  • Cost – The cost of the MeritCare Children's Hospital expansion/renovation project is $5.2 million; total square footage is 7,087, which is an addition of 2,350 square feet.
  • MeritCare Children's Hospital – The children's hospital is one of only 183 nationally accredited children's hospitals in the nation and the only one in North Dakota.

Following are real-life examples of birth situations that required high-level specialty care:

  • At seven months pregnant, a mom developed dangerously high blood pressure, which is a life-threatening condition for both mom and baby. Her obstetrician monitored the situation and decided that the baby would need to be delivered early. The Family Birth Center team prepared to meet the needs of mom, and the NICU prepared for what turned out to be the critical needs of the premature infant. Since the unit and teams are located just a few steps away from each other, they're able to work well as partners, setting the stage for the best possible outcome for mom and baby.

  • While everything pointed to a normal birth for one family, the unexpected happened; their full-term baby entered the world unable to breathe due to an obstructed airway. Staff in the Family Birth Center immediately activated an emergency light to alert the NICU; the NICU team resuscitated and saved the infant.

  • An ultrasound revealed triplets; the parents were excited and nervous and knew multiple babies carried an increased risk of premature birth. At 30 weeks, the mom gave birth at Family Birth Center, where four teams assisted: one for mom and three NICU teams – one for each baby.