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SMC’s new neonatal intensive care unit opens today


Samaritan Medical Center’s tiniest patients now have a new, expanded space they can call their temporary home after birth.

Hospital staff began moving supplies, staff, and premature and newborn babies to the 3,100-square-foot neonatal intensive care unit right across from the labor and delivery unit on the third floor of what hospital officials call the Pratt building.

“There’s 12 rooms, and some are bigger than others, but the bigger ones are where we’re going to put our sickest babies, where there’s room for more equipment,” said Stephanie M. Boden, a registered nurse and assistant nurse manager for Samaritan’s Maternity Place.

The new NICU has the same number of infant beds as the old 1,400-square-foot NICU across the hall. The new space was the hospital’s adult intensive care unit, which has since been gutted and rebuilt to specifications for infant care. The NICU renovations are a part of the overall renovations of 71,500 square feet of older hospital space. Samaritan has worked on its $61 million expansion and renovation project for the past few years.

The new NICU features a nurses’ station, a nourishment area for guests and mothers, a glider rocker in every room, updated standard NICU equipment and one isolation, negative-pressure room which helps keep bacteria out.

Mrs. Boden said the NICU environment the nursing staff is used to working in was just too tight quarters, which offered little to no privacy for families. The old NICU was one big room, and infant beds were separated by curtains. In the new NICU each room is separated by walls, but features curtains instead of doors for easier access to babies.

“Each of these is private rooms, and it all fits in together to move into family-centered care,” said Thomas H. Carman, Samaritan Medical Center president and CEO.

Mrs. Boden said the new NICU is so accommodating that it has a parent room equipped with a bed, a bathroom and a shower.

“For a baby about to go home, and a mom that’s been home a month — this is where they can spend the night with the baby before they take them home,” she said. “This way the nurses can teach them about their babies.”

There’s also a special storage area for moms who pump their breast milk. Mrs. Boden said the old NICU offered that, but wasn’t as easily accessible.

Over the next several weeks, she said, the maternity team will figure out the new work system.

Samaritan Foundation chairwoman Lisa A. Weber credited the opening of the new NICU, and other components of Samaritan’s expansion and renovation project, to several generous donors, including Kinney Drugs Foundation and its gift of $1 million.

Dr. Karl J. Komar, neonatologist and NICU medical director, said when he first came to Samaritan about 20 years ago he could turn around in the NICU and examine up to 12 babies. He said he is honored to be a part of the hospital’s “golden years” the past seven years, under Mr. Carman’s leadership.

“We want to provide the best service we can to families, including those on Fort Drum,” Dr. Komar said. “We hate when we have to send babies to Syracuse.”

Samaritan’s NICU is a level 2, which means it cares mostly for babies born at 32 weeks gestation and up.

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