Renovations to the Birth Place at Rockdale Medical Center included remodels of the labor and delivery rooms, including new paint, furniture, lighting, monitors and equipment.
CONYERS — Inez Young-Wiggs walks through Rockdale Medical Center’s newly renovated neonatal intensive care unit. She points out how each of the rooms is equipped with panels that absorb sound, to keep rooms quiet for the babies, and dimmer lights that can be set low when babies sleep or brightened when medical procedures take place. Each room has sliding doors and curtains that can be closed for privacy.
For now, the unit is empty. But by early February, the rooms should be ready for the tiny patients, most of them premature babies, and their families.
“I can’t wait for them to get in,” said Young-Wiggs, a registered nurse and manager of the Rockdale Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Rockdale Medical Center recently completed a $5.5 million reconstruction and remodel project in its Birth Place, which hospital officials will unveil during a dedication ceremony at 5:30 p.m. today. The centerpiece of the project is the expansion of the NICU from one room that served eight babies to 16 individual rooms that each accommodate a baby and family. The NICU is 12,482 square feet.
The changes also include renovation of 17 labor and delivery rooms, which received new paint, furniture, lighting, monitors, equipment and bathrooms, to make them more consistent with the 28 mother-baby rooms that opened in 2005. Construction of two new Birth Place surgery rooms and a four-bed triage room also were part of the project.
Young-Wiggs said the NICU rooms allow babies and their families privacy, an aspect not afforded with the prior NICU.
“This expansion is moving us toward more family-centered care,” Young-Wiggs said. “When mothers are discharged and their babies are still in NICU, the parents don’t often know what to do. But with family-centered care, they can stay with the babies, learn how to care for them, and are much more comfortable when they take the babies home. It really helps with the bonding and the babies’ development.”
A stay in the NICU ranges from one day to a few months, depending on how early a baby is born. Typically, the first medical hurdle is stabilizing the baby’s repository system, Young-Wiggs said. The second challenge is feeding the baby.
In addition to the private rooms, the renovations also include updated technology that computer-charts the babies’ conditions.
RMC is a level 2 NICU, which means the hospital can perform most medical procedures for the babies, with the exclusion of surgery and the treatment of cardiology-related health problems.
RMC Chief Executive Officer Deborah Armstrong said an increase in the demographic of women who are at the age to give birth — 18 to 45 — resulted in greater use of the Birth Center at RMC and led to the decision to expand the NICU.
Out of the roughly 2,000 babies born at RMC annually, an average of 275 require care in the NICU.
“Our driving force is to meet the needs,” Armstrong said. “We opened the doors of the NICU in 2001 and we’ve been overflowing ever since.”
Armstrong said having the additional NICU space also allows parents to see their babies more often than if they had given birth at a hospital in Atlanta.
“Those families aren’t having to drive in and out of Atlanta traffic,” she said. “They can stay here at home.”
To schedule a tour of the Birth Place, call 800-424-3627.