West Valley Medical Center September 28, 2017

Local medical professionals and community leaders gathered at West Valley Medical Center Thursday for the grand opening of the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. The new space allows hospital staff to care for preterm infants who previously would have been transferred to Boise facilities for care.

The $1 million project renovated 1,985 square feet of the existing Family Maternity Center to create a level II special nursery. Features of the new space include a triage room, isolation room, and lactation room where mothers can store breast milk for their infants.

"The first days of bonding are critical for a new family, perhaps even more so when a baby is born preterm," said Denise Dixon, RN, director of Women's Services. "It means the world to us that these new services will help local families stay together when it's needed most."

West Valley also invested in state-of-the-art technology and extensive staff training, increasing the hospital's level of care for newborns in need of assistance with breathing, blood glucose levels, bilirubin levels (jaundice), temperature regulation, feeding, or weight gain. In the short term, the NICU staff will treat babies born at 34 weeks - about three weeks premature - with the eventual goal of providing care for newborns born just 32 weeks into pregnancy.

West Valley began discussing the need for a NICU in the western Treasure Valley about five years according to Julie Mills, RN, the nurse lead on the project. When the unit opened its doors Sept. 19, all four infant beds were immediately put to use, further highlighting the critical need for these services in the Caldwell area.

Three board-certified physicians specializing in neonatology will provide 24/7 on-call coverage for the new unit, and six neonatal nurse practitioners will be available to attend high-risk deliveries and provide on-site neonate care throughout the day.

"It's best practice when developing a new unit to have care providers involved in decisions about design. They know best what is going to meet the needs of their patients," Chief Nursing Officer Tracee Hendershott said. "It doesn't work out that way at every hospital, but we made it a priority on this project to have nurses and physicians at the table from day one."

Construction began in January 2017 and took approximately five months to complete. The hospital collaborated with Babcock Design Group of Boise for design services; Beniton Construction of Meridian served as contractor.