Columbia St. Mary’s Opens Doerr Family Newborn Intensive Care Unit

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

First All-Private Room NICU in Southeastern Wisconsin

New NICU to improve medical outcomes for premature and ill newborns

Milwaukee, Wis., November 14, 2011—Columbia St. Mary’s is pleased to announce the opening of the Doerr Family Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU)—the first all-private-room NICU in southeastern Wisconsin—today - Monday, November 14, 2011.  The new $3.5 million NICU, which is moving from the 4th floor to the 6th floor of Columbia St. Mary’s Women’s Hospital, will set a new standard of care for premature and ill infants in southeastern Wisconsin, allowing these special newborns to go home healthier and sooner.  The NICU is named in recognition of generous support by brothers Daniel L. Doerr and Christopher L. Doerr, long time donors to and advocates for Columbia St. Mary’s.

Continuing a tradition of support that started with their parents, the Doerrs – for nearly two decades – have held a variety of leadership roles for Columbia St. Mary’s and led giving for important projects to expand services to the community, including Columbia St. Mary’s hospital building campaigns in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties, community benefit programs, an expanded medical oncology clinic, and cardiovascular and stroke services.

Improved health outcomes for at-risk infants
“This new model of care is proven to improve health and reduce the number of days spent in the hospital for premature infants, all while increasing family satisfaction,” said Dr. John Wolf, neonatologist and medical director of the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Milwaukee. “The all-private room NICU will reduce the risk of infection, reduce stress through noise and light control and provide more privacy for patients and their families.”

Today, CSM’s NICU team works in a 17-bed unit in a large open space – a design popularized in the 1960s. Since that time, neonatal technology has advanced and there are significantly more invasive treatments and therapies delivered within the NICU and knowledge regarding infection transmission has increased.

The move to all-private rooms will greatly increase privacy and allow parents to better bond with their child through feeding, holding and learning about the special care needed for their infant. The private room also provides a much better environment for new moms to breastfeed their child. Most importantly, privacy is afforded when there are critical medical needs that the physicians, caregivers and families are managing.

Because it is private, the room can become their “home away from home” as they spend countless hours at their child’s bedside. Families will have a space to visit, take care of family business and even stay overnight anytime throughout their stay. Windows in each room provide natural light and comforting views.

Giraffe® OmniBed® Isolettes – the most advanced incubator available
In addition to the private rooms, new state-of-the-art equipment will further advance how the critically ill newborns receive care. Primary to this effort is the addition of Giraffe® OmniBed® Isolettes – the most advanced incubator available today.

The OmniBed features a rotating bed so the caregiver can position the bed according to height and comfort, an elevating hood to provide instant and uncompromised access to the baby, and an integrated weight scale and X-ray cassette tray, all that help ensure minimal disturbance to the baby.

“As a Level III NICU, this is critically important when surgeons perform procedures such as PDA surgery – a procedure necessary to close an artery in the heart of a preterm baby,” said Dr. Wolf.  “The OmniBed gives the surgeon the ability to perform procedures at the infant’s bedside, reducing the baby’s stress caused by transport to a surgical room.”

In addition, five standard isolettes will be added, an open warmer, a pediatric crib and six standard bassinets for when the infant is preparing to go home. Feeding pumps, breast milk warmers and phototherapy lights round out the equipment upgrade.

“Altogether, these efforts will improve the baby’s health and weight gain and get them to their ultimate goal faster – going home,” said Dr. Wolf.

Designed using “best-in-practice” research and input from physicians, nurses, families and hospital staff, the new NICU has more than doubled in size to 11,000 square feet.  The unit includes two wings with private patient rooms, nurses’ stations, medicine preparation rooms, physician work rooms, storage rooms, medical/administrative offices, staff break and locker rooms, a classroom and visitor’s lounge.   Each of the 23 patient rooms is approximately 233 square feet – large enough to accommodate separate patient, family and caregiver areas.  The room comfortably fits an isolette, monitoring and medical equipment, a work area for physicians and staff and a dedicated family area large enough to accommodate an overnight stay.  To provide for families with multiples, two larger rooms offer additional space.

The central core of the NICU will include a central monitoring system to enable staff to view vital statistics of all patients, dedicated space for medication preparation and a physician work station. Between the two wings central storage for equipment and supplies will increase organization and accessibility for both wings.

To create a home-like environment, the NICU includes a comfortable shared visiting area with kitchenette, educational materials and a children’s play area. This visitor's lounge is twice as large as the previous one. The classroom can be used as a family support group space, education center, staff communication center or family consult, and will provide a designated learning space for families as they prepare to take their child home.

“The improved family-friendly setting will allow parents to be an integral part of the care team, giving them a precious opportunity to help their child through this difficult journey,” said Patricia Mueller, manager of Women’s and Children’s Services at Columbia St. Mary’s.  “It is essential that we provide this care and, in accordance with our mission and values, provide this care in the best environment possible.  Our goal is to make the NICU experience as smooth as possible for these families – whether their baby will stay 12 hours or 12 weeks.”

Decreased healthcare costs
Today one in eight babies in the U.S. is born prematurely.  “For these special babies, the NICU is their first home,” said Mueller.  “Current research shows that premature and ill newborns do better in private-room environments.  Our new setting, which can be customized based for each babies need, will improve medical outcomes while reducing length of stay and therefore, decreasing healthcare costs for extended care.” Columbia St. Mary’s NICU serves more than 300 families in southeastern Wisconsin each year.  Each infant has an average length of stay of 14 days.  The goal of the new NICU is to continue to reduce the average length of stay.  

Columbia St. Mary’s is a certified Level III NICU.  In addition to evaluating healthy newborn infants and providing postnatal care, the specialized NICU staff is able to perform neonatal resuscitation and care for newborn infants with extreme prematurity, extreme low birth weight or who are critically ill or require surgical intervention.

New NICU integral to comprehensive Women’s Hospital
The new NICU project is part of Columbia St. Mary’s five-year plan to renovate its Women’s Hospital and consolidate inpatient and outpatient services for women, infants and children at one convenient location.

In addition to the new NICU, the Women’s Hospital includes a state-of-the-art breast health center - the Van Dyke Haebler Center - a dedicated Labor & Delivery unit, several Mom/Baby units, a Perinatal Assessment Center, Pediatrics, Pediatric Therapy, Obstetric/Gynecological outpatient clinic and other patient services.

The first floor of the Women’s Hospital is also home to the Nicholas Family Education Center, funded through a generous gift from the Nicholas Family Foundation. The center’s flexible, attractive design offers space for childbirth education classes, family learning sessions, moms’ groups, community education and other activities.  Columbia St. Mary’s goal is to prepare pregnant women and their families for a meaningful and healthy pregnancy, birth and parenting experience through the presentation of information and techniques as life skills.

“The Women’s Hospital, including the NICU, will raise the bar in southeastern Wisconsin for delivering exceptional healthcare and customer service in an extraordinary environment,” said Joan Hintz, director of Women's & Children's Services at Columbia St. Mary’s.

Impact on infant mortality in Milwaukee
The new NICU is a component of Columbia St. Mary’s ongoing commitment to building a healthy community.  Prematurity causes more than 50 percent of infant deaths.  Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate—the number of infant deaths (one year of age or younger) per 1000 live births—is the 7th worst among the 53 largest U.S. cities.  “The all-private NICU will bring at-risk babies to health quicker, thus increasing their chances to thrive once they go home,” said Bill Solberg, director of community services at Columbia St. Mary’s.  “Columbia St. Mary’s is also working to reduce infant deaths through numerous community outreach and education efforts, including our recent partnership with the City of Milwaukee Health Department to organize the Safe Sleep Sabbath.”  Columbia St. Mary's Safe Sleep campaign includes informative posters in each Mom/Baby room, distribution of “Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play” infant onesies to educate parents and others about the correct sleep positioning and providing Pack-and-Play cribs to families without the financial resources to purchase a bassinet or crib.

Foundation provides critical financial support
Columbia St. Mary’s benefits from the support of generous donors to the Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation, which cultivates philanthropic support for Columbia St. Mary’s programs and services to make a positive difference in the health status and lives of patients, their families and the community, with special concern for those who are vulnerable.  Foundation support of the new NICU helped fulfill all three of its three priority funding areas: Advanced Treatments and Technologies, Exceptional Patient Experience and Community Impact Programs.  The Foundation provided $1.2 million towards the $3.5 million NICU project, including more than $265,000 raised at its gala this year, one of the highest amounts ever raised at this annual event.  Earlier Foundation support to the NICU provided Giraffe® OmniBeds®, the most state-of-the-art isolette available for premature infant care.  “We are extremely grateful to the Doerr Family for their long-time support of the Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation and their naming gift for the NICU,” said Lisa A. Froemming, president/CEO, Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation.  “They – and all of the donors who helped make this incredible NICU possible -- can take great pride in helping to ensure the greatest health outcomes for these fragile lives.”

A Summary:  Features of the All-private Rooms

  • The all-private patient rooms are designed to care for infants in all levels of acuity – from admission to discharge. Once an infant is assigned, that infant will stay in the room until his or her discharge. This provides the staff with the most flexibility and relieves the stress of additional movement of the patient, family and staff.
  • Giraffe® OmniBed® Isolettes - Ability to perform most medical procedures at the infant’s bedside, rather than requiring transport to a different room.
  • Family space that encourages parents to learn to care for their baby before he or she goes home. Special needs may include infant CPR training, at-home monitor training and medication disbursement
  • Full glass front walls with sliding doors to provide staff with a wide field for visual monitoring, while maintaining noise control and privacy
  • Privacy curtains for mom’s to breast feed or pump and for both parents to practice “kangaroo care,” a technique practiced where the infant is held skin to skin with an adult to promote bonding.
  • Furnishings to increase the comfort of parents, including a rocking chair for parents to bond with their child; a convertible sleeper sofa that allows a parent to stay overnight; desktop space and wireless internet access and for families to communicate with family and friends; flat screen televisions with headphones for quiet viewing; and family care facilities with a shower.
  • Noise and light control based on the infant’s need. For extremely critical infants, noise and light are harmful to physiological stability; private rooms will allow for a calmer, less stimulating environment. For families whose baby is stronger and closer to discharge, the private room provides windows for natural light and an environment for family and friends to visit and bond in a more natural, comfortable environment without disturbing others.
  • Hand washing sinks to help decrease the spread of infection.
  • Flexible space surrounding the isolette to accommodate changing medical equipment needs based on the infant’s condition. Wall-mounted laptops for patient charting in each room, allowing staff to easily access and update medical information.
  • In-room refrigerators for storage of medications and mom’s breast milk, and a specialized freezer for breast milk storage.

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