HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By Melanie Yamaguchi
Tripler Army Medical Center celebrated the grand opening of its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Thursday as the first of its kind for the Department of Defense and the entire island.
The new NICU offers private, single-family rooms with state-of-the-art equipment including high-tech incubators and lights that change color depending on room noise level.
"Other NICUs are the standard in what was alluded to a 1987 standard of multiple bassinets with children in them," Brig. Gen. Dennis Doyle said. "No real privacy, no intimacy, no bonding opportunities for the mother and father and the baby. Here, you have that in a total comfort area with light control, volume control, sound attenuation and state-of-the-art nursing care through technology, through on-call systems, and through monitoring."
With sound-proof walls, floors and ceilings, Doyle said the NICU provides a womb-like environment for newborns to ensure optimal hearing, growth and overall development.
"This will doubtless, I mean exponentially, increase our ability to provide the highest quality care which is why we exist as an army medical department, is to care for those soldiers, sailors, marines, and their families," Doyle said. "And this case, the precious little ones who come to us and just have some serious illnesses or were born too premature. This is going to advance their care exponentially."
With more than 10 years of planning, the actual construction of Tripler's entire NICU took about two years to complete and was done in two phases to keep it operational. The first phase was completed in April. It cost about $9 million in design, construction and new equipment to renovate office spaces.
"Every time a project of this magnitude, this scope, is developed, it has to go through a pretty arduous process," Doyle said. "That includes the design, the funding for it and then how the project will be built. In this case, we couldn't stop care for neonates. We had to be able to do it in parts, so that we could continue to provide care for the families here on the island."
Pearl Harbor resident Tonya Nelms gave birth at Tripler in 2011 when construction of the new NICU was underway. At the time, mothers were placed in one big room with beds spaced about 5 feet apart from each other. Nelms said she lacked privacy but thinks the single-family rooms would provide that for patients.
"It will be really good for the parents who come through now," she said. "It's set up perfect. Everything that we could've ever asked for while we were here before, it's all here now."
The NICU, on the fifth floor of Tripler, will be open to patients starting Friday.