East Alabama Health’s newly constructed level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) began welcoming new patients last Thursday, offering 11 patient rooms that will be available for babies who are born at 32 weeks or less — full gestation is 40 weeks.
It will include new features such as a milk lab, pharmacy with a dedicated pharmacist, a dedicated respiratory therapist, and a developmental therapy room.
“The presence of a level III NICU significantly impacts our community,” said Desiree Sinclair, NICU nursing unit manager. “Previously, infants requiring level III care were separated from their mother and transported an hour or two away. This service will allow families to stay in the same community as their infant, surrounded by their support groups,” she says.
“I am deeply grateful and blessed to be part of this exciting new service to our community,” Sinclair said. “Having the opportunity to help create a service that will serve our community for generations to come is a once-in-a-lifetime dream come true. Through generous support, we have equipped our unit with the most state-of-the-art equipment, phenomenal developmental support technology, and highly experienced, skilled professionals. The nurses, respiratory therapists, and physicians have a deep love and passion for the NICU. The staff have poured their hearts into creating an environment to care for all aspects of our tiniest community members.”
One of the most unique features in the new NICU is the lighting. A touch screen panel in each room provides six different colored light options, which help with cone development of a newborn’s eyes as well as their circadian rhythm. The red light can be utilized at night because it provides light without interfering with melatonin production and sleep. The NICU will also offer a suite for twins. This specially designed suite consists of two adjoining patient rooms that are separated with sliding doors. This allows families with twins to visit both babies at once.
“During my more than 30-year career here, we have always had to transfer infants who were very sick or too small to stay,” said Executive Director of Women & Children Health Services Rosemary Cummings. “This has always created such a hardship for the families of our community. Now we can keep them together in our hospital and give them the outstanding care they deserve. My dream for many years has been to be able to care for our littlest patients with top of the line equipment and the very best staff.
"Our nurses come with many years of NICU and level II experience and they are ready to take care of these tiniest infants. The nurses, respiratory therapist and neonatologist are amazing.”