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Press Releases

Bellevue Hospital Opens New Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

State of the Art Equipment, Environmental Features that Control Light and Sound Advance Care of Premature and Critically Ill Infants
New Design Includes Elements Recommended by Parents of Bellevue Preemies

Jun 29, 2011

New York, NY
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The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) and Bellevue Hospital Center today unveiled the new Barbara P. Gimbel Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), specially designed to mimic the nurturing environment of the mother’s womb, reduce the stress of the NICU experience and help the immediate and long-term health of premature babies and other critically ill infants. The new $5.2 million, 14,000-square-foot NICU triples the size of the current unit and will serve 500 infants annually.
“This new space is designed to improve the quality of care and health outcomes of the littlest New Yorkers by dramatically reducing stressful external stimulation and nurturing them as if they never left their mother’s womb prematurely,” said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. “Loud noises and bright lights interrupt babies’ sleep patterns and interfere with the healing and developmental process that occurs during their sleep. We know that premature babies who receive this kind of developmental care that eliminates external stimuli can feed on their own quicker, go home sooner and ultimately have better short and long-term outcomes than babies who don’t.”
The new NICU is named after Barbara P. Gimbel, the renowned philanthropist and health advocate who is co-founder of the Children of Bellevue Auxiliary and a longtime supporter of the hospital.
The 20-bed NICU incorporates the latest developmental research findings with input from staff who work in the unit and from family members whose babies are former patients of the NICU. The innovative design includes the following unique features:

  • High tech incubators and monitoring devices to control excessive light, noise and room temperatures.
  •  Modern multi-function beds that convert from radiant warmers to incubators with the touch of a button to eliminate the stress of moving fragile preemies.
  • A “Launch Pad”– a home-like private room where parents can spend a night or two caring for their pre-term babies with the assistance of medical staff before the baby is discharged from the hospital. Evidence shows that if parents are properly prepared to care for their pre-term infant before they leave the hospital, they are better able to provide competent care for the baby after discharge
  • A fully networked and integrated sound system (Sonicu) – the first in New York State — to monitor sound from inside the incubator and advise staff visually when the noise level is too high. Research has shown that controlling sound levels in the NICU reduces infant stress and promotes better oxygen saturation and steadier heart and respiratory patterns.
  • A satellite pharmacy staffed by a pharmacist with clinical experience in the preparation of oral and intravenous doses of medication tailored specifically to the needs of the tiny patients.
  • More room for family members at the bedside, a Family Lounge and a dining area and shower on the floor to accommodate parents who spend long stretches of time at the hospital.

“Research has demonstrated that parents play an important role in the short and long term health outcomes of critically ill infants. With this new spacious home for neonates, we can encourage parents to embrace a primary role in the care of their infants,” said Lynda D. Curtis, Senior Vice President/Executive Director of Bellevue.
“The Launch Pad helps parents become familiar with their infants’ habits, behavior, sleep patterns and routines,” explained Dr. Karen Hendricks–Muñoz, Chief of Neonatology. “It supports a learning environment where families can actually practice the care and procedures that their infant will require at home. They can practice feeding a tiny baby, changing her diaper and taking care of her medical needs. Parents leave with greater knowledge and confidence in their ability to care for their infants.”
Over one third of the babies in the NICU are born at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy (pre-term), and all the infants in the unit require highly specialized medical care and their families need information about caring for these infants after discharge.
Bellevue is a State-designated Regional Perinatal Center that provides care for the highest level of critically ill infants born in regional hospitals that account for 36,580 births or 30% of all births in New York City. As a tertiary referral center for maternal and infant births and intra-hospital transfers of high risk pregnancies, Bellevue is widely recognized for medical excellence.
According to data from the Vermont Oxford Network (VON), a non-profit collaborative dedicated to improving the quality and safety of medical care for newborns, Bellevue has consistently exceeded the national benchmark for survival of very low birth weight infants (less than 1,500 grams). In 2010, the survival rate for these infants at Bellevue was 94% compared to the national benchmark of 84%.
Other parent-friendly features of the new unit include:

  • A 24 hour visitation policy for parents and family members. Parents participate in medical rounds that are conducted twice daily by staff to update the care team members on the condition of the infant
  • A Breastfeeding Education room and a breast milk refrigerator and freezer room in addition to a separate nourishment station for mothers
  • A multipurpose family room for parenting classes, consultation, CPR training or a private place to make a phone call.
  • Instruction in comprehensive developmental care including infant-driven feedings, swaddle bathing, and skin-to-skin or kangaroo care.

The NICU project is supported by funding from the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and the Franklin Fund. Bellevue has been a pioneer in neonatal and perinatal health advocacy since the opening of a premature infant ward in 1916. In 1952, Bellevue staff published seminal research on eliminating a cause of blindness among premature infants (Retrole Fibroplasia). Since 1985, Bellevue has jointly operated the Regional Perinatal Center and directed the NYC Infant Transport Program, first with NYU Medical Center and since 1999 with Jacobi Medical Center, a public hospital.


About Bellevue

Bellevue is a member of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and is America’s oldest continuously operating hospital, established in 1736. It has a long and distinguished history of innovative contributions to public health, medical science and education. Affiliated with the NYU School of Medicine, Bellevue is a major referral center for highly complex cases.


About HHC

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) is a $6.7 billion integrated healthcare delivery system with its own 420,000 member health plan, MetroPlusHealth, and is the largest municipal healthcare organization in the country. HHC serves 1.4 million New Yorkers every year and more than 475,000 are uninsured. HHC provides medical, mental health and substance abuse services through its 11 acute care hospitals, five skilled nursing facilities, six large diagnostic and treatment centers and more than 70 community based clinics. HHC Health and Home Care also provides in-home services for New Yorkers. HHC was the 2008 recipient of the National Quality Forum and The Joint Commission’s John M. Eisenberg Award for Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality. For more information, visit www.nychhc.org/hhc or find us on facebook.com/NYCHealthSystem or twitter.com/NYCHealthSystem.