Care for tiny babies in the Ozarks is about to get even better, as Mercy Kids in Springfield opens Phase II of the Betty and Bobby Allison Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Bishop James V. Johnston blessed the space today during a Mercy co-worker gathering.
Phase I of the project opened in December 2012 with 27 new beds; this last phase of the project expands the number of beds to 46. With this final phase complete, Mercy can permanently close its former NICU, which was one large room where infant beds shared space with family members, scrub areas and the nurses’ station. Families’ suggestions and a decade of research led the design concepts for the new space, which allow for private family rooms where babies get high-tech care and can experience the loving presence of friends and family.
When Danielle Wagner gave birth to quadruplets on May 8, 2013, she quickly learned how important it was to have all of her babies in one room. “I could see every monitor and I never had to run from one room to another to see how my babies were doing,” she said. “I could communicate with the doctors without worrying that someone else was listening. We decorated the room and really made it our own. It was as close to being at home as possible within a hospital.”
Research supports what Wagner learned through experience; private rooms matter to babies. “Studies have shown that premature babies in individual rooms stay in the hospital for less time, they gain weight faster, and they have less risk of infection,” said Dr. Melinda Slack, medical director for the nursery at Mercy Kids in Springfield.
Dr. Slack and the nurse management team have been working for more than 10 years on improving the NICU. The team traveled to multiple hospitals to learn what worked in other places and what didn’t. Ideas for the design of the new NICU also came from families who’d experienced the old space.
The redesigned NICU was made possible by generous donations from the community, including $2 million from Bobby Allison. Other significant donors with gifts totaling $630,000 are Beth and John Raidel, Dr. Walter and Martha Gaska, Dr. K. Fon and Kimberly Huang, Pediatrix Medical Group, Inc., The Smile Foundation, Dr. Eric and Kristi Fulnecky and Children, Dr. Alexander and Barbara Hover, Empire Bank and Central Trust and Investment Company, Arvest Bank, Dr. Elizabeth J. Andrews, Dr. John M. Burson, The Rick’s Automotive Family, William T. Kemper Foundation and Commerce Bank.