TERRE HAUTE —
Big plans have come full term for Union Hospital’s smallest patients.
Dozens of admirers filled the brightly lit halls of Union West, where the newly expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was opened for a preview Wednesday evening. Now more than 23,000 square feet, the area formerly housing surgery boasts eight birthing suites, nine triage rooms and more space for infants requiring intensive care.
Many retirees attended the evening’s event, lauding advancements in technology while pointing out the continued commitment to quality. Itself born in 1968, Union Hospital’s NICU is the oldest such in Indiana, founded through the collaborative efforts of doctors Thomas Conway and William Scully.
Dr. J. Lewis Stoelting said he well remembers those years — and a few decades earlier.
“It’s a lot different now,” he said near the unit’s entrance. Beginning his obstetrics practice at Union Hospital in 1947, Stoelting’s deliveries numbered into the thousands, and he recalled one night in particular where he and the team delivered 16 babies in one shift.
Union nurses then, like Union nurses now, demonstrated excellence, he recalled. And while that commitment hasn’t changed, little else in the unit has remained the same.
Hospital CEO Scott Teffeteller said the unit, which cost approximately $5 million to build, helps fulfill the organization’s mission.
“We exist to serve our patients with compassionate health care of the highest quality,” he said, adding that this investment brings world-class care to the Wabash Valley. “If this isn’t the highest of quality, I don’t know what is.”
Union Hospital delivered more than 16,000 babies last year, admitting 300 infants to the NICU, he said.
Among those infants was Anden Litz, who entered the world Nov. 18, 2011, about 12 weeks premature, weighing in at 2 pounds, 10 ounces.
Anden’s father, Shane, on Wednesday afternoon credited the unit’s staff, pointing out the number of nurses there with more than 20 years experience.
“There’s so many years experience all together there in that NICU,” he said.
The need for more space in that unit was telling, though, he recalled, adding he’s certain the group’s commitment to care won’t lessen as the space increases. Crediting his son’s physician and director of the pediatrics department, Dr. Russel Coutinho, Litz said staff there genuinely care for the children involved.
“He was able to express those feelings to the parent in a way that was very calming,” Litz said, adding his son now weighs more than 15 pounds. “That’s an important thing in that situation, having a doctor that genuinely cares.”
During the open house, Coutinho said the new facility will help its staff make sick babies well and send them home to their parents, just as they’ve been doing since the early days.
“This will provide us a better environment to help our families,” he said.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.