North Mississippi Medical Center ready to welcome premature babies to new facility

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – North Mississippi Medical Center’s tiniest patients are getting much-needed growing room this week.
After years of planning and construction, the second-floor addition to the NMMC Women’s Hospital in Tupelo is ready to welcome premature babies into a new neonatal intensive care.
“Our goal in moving upstairs is to have better family-centered care,” said Dr. Bryan Darling, one of four neonatologists who care for the premature infants.
Today, the NICU will be open to public tours. On Tuesday, the staff is slated to move the babies into their new unit, said Cheryl Russell, director of nursing.
Parents who wish to will be able to stay the night with their babies starting in July.
The current NICU accommodates 22 babies in two tightly packed wards.
Because so many babies, machines, nurses and therapists are crowded in one space, it’s louder and brighter than doctors would like.
Time for parents is restricted because space is so tight.
And because space is so cramped, at times they have to turn down transfer requests from hospitals that don’t have a NICU, Darling said.
More choices
The new NICU will have 34 beds with the flexibility to accommodate up to 50 in semi-private rooms. The flex space will let staffers care for twins in the same area if needed.
In the same space where nurses now care for six infants in the step-down nursery, they will take care of two, Darling said.
The result should be quieter, darker rooms that are closer to what the baby would experience.
A half wall of cabinets in the center of the room creates privacy. Parents have their own little nook in each room, with comfy chairs.
“Parents will have unlimited time with their baby,” Russell said. “They’ll have time to bond and time to really learn how to take care of the baby.”
Currently, visits by siblings and grandparents are extremely limited. In the new unit, siblings and grandparents will be able to visit more often; although, there will be guidelines to protect the babies from exposure to colds and other illnesses.
The nurse workstations, which let them watch over both of the babies in each room, are staggered through the hall, so they will still have easy communication with each other as they take care of their charges.
There’s a family resource room with kitchen, showers, computers and laundry, so parents can have a place to take a break.
Unlike the current NICU unit, which is located in the interior of the hospital, the second floor NICU has lots of windows that bring in natural light. There are several nooks set up to give families a place to sit and relax outside the baby’s room.
The project was slated to cost $15 million.
“It’s definitely under the approved budget,” said architect Kurt Shettles of McCarty Co., but the exact figure is still being tabulated as final bills come in.
Not all of the construction is focused on the NICU. Downstairs, there are new classrooms, new administrative offices and two enclosed courtyards, created by the addition on the second floor.
One of the two courtyards will open permanently in a few weeks after a gate arrives to meet security requirements.
A second courtyard will be finished later.
“We hope to get started on it after the first of the year,” said Ellen Friloux, administrator for NMMC’s women’s and children’s services.
Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.