Most infants treated by the nationally and internationally renowned neonatologists in the NICU are born prematurely and suffer from a variety of serious and often life-threatening illness, including inadequately developed organs, infection, respiratory failure, congenital malformations and neurological and metabolic disorders.
Despite being the largest facility of its kind in Massachusetts, BWH’s NICU is cramped for space. The NICU, which was built in the early 1990s, is approaching obsolescence by today’s critical care standards. Its limitations are intensified by the average length of stay in the NICU which, at 22 days, is five times longer than the 5-day average for all other BWH patients. In response, BWH is planning a major renovation of the NICU that will expand clinical space by 130 percent. The new NICU is expected to help produce better health outcomes, enhance family comfort and privacy, and ensure that the NICU medical staff’s skill and compassion help their fragile patients in every way possible.
A number of related factors are also driving the renovation. Private space is needed for parents and staff to engage in intimate discussion, personal contemplation, and end-of-life considerations. Such space is not presently available. Additionally, the life-saving machinery and technology that have reshaped newborn medicine over the past two decades (i.e. high-frequency ventilators) now compete for bedside space with the people most vital to the infant’s care. Flexibility in the use of space is essential to accommodate future technological progress.
To address both environmental and family-oriented issues, the NICU will consist of a series of seven “neighborhoods” made up of clusters of seven to ten beds and a nurses’ station. The NICU will have 36 private patient rooms and 26 semi-private rooms to accommodate multiple births, providing a total of 62 beds and an opportunity to flex beyond this number in periods of greater need. All rooms will be laid out with three “zones” designed to accommodate staff, patient and family needs. The design will also enhance opportunities for teaching of residents and provide a family support area for learning and socializing.
Creating a state-of-the-art NICU is consistent with BWH’s longstanding commitment to excellence and innovation in newborn medicine. The projected cost of the renovation is $32 million, and a multi-phase construction process is expected to begin in 2012 and take approximately 48 months to complete. An investment in BWH’s NICU renovation can make a difference in the lives of thousands of children and families who face difficult health challenges at birth and rely on BWH’s unparalleled expertise to help them through.