The smallest patients in Visalia now have a new space made just for them
at Kaweah Delta Medical Center – a state-of-the-art, 15,000 square-foot
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), located on the sixth floor of the
Acequia Wing. This floor grows Kaweah Delta’s NICU from 15 to 23
beds in five times the square footage, and offers patients and their families
(only mothers and fathers amid COVID-19 visitor restrictions) private,
"It’s a dream come true," said Tracie Plunkett, director
of Maternal Child Health, which encompasses Kaweah Delta’s NICU,
Labor and Delivery, Mother-Baby, and Pediatric departments. "We are
so excited for our mothers and their babies to be able to experience the
privacy of their own room as they bond with each other."
Kaweah Delta’s NICU, which is staffed by physicians from Valley Children’s
Medical Group, was previously located in the Mineral King Wing, a building
that opened in 1969. The unit itself was windowless in the center of the
building. But in the new unit, babies and their moms can get a regular
dose of daylight during their stay. Each room features large windows in
addition to soft lighting, personal refrigerators for mother’s milk
or formula, and a sofa bed. Other amenities on the floor include a classroom
for nurse trainings and parent conferences, a medication room, two designated
supply areas, one large nurse station, and twelve smaller, decentralized
stations providing nurses with a direct line of view to their tiny patients.
In celebration of the NICU’s opening, babies received a commemorative
onesie and new moms received balloon bouquets and a celebration lunch.
Xenora Gonzalez’s daughter Xayleigh, who was born at 36 weeks, was
the second baby to move into the NICU. Gonzalez walked beside her daughter
as they moved her crib. "She enjoyed it, seeing sunlight for the
first time," said Gonzalez, who noted that she will appreciate the
privacy when it comes time to pump breast milk. "I am already more
comfortable sitting down with the baby, and you could tell that she enjoyed
it too, because these chairs rock."
Currently, to protect patients, visitors, and staff members, Kaweah Delta
has a no-visitor policy in place throughout the hospital; however, exceptions
are made for Labor and Delivery, NICU, and Pediatric patients. Hospital-wide,
Kaweah Delta has implemented additional measures to clean and disinfect
surfaces to ensure patient, visitor, and staff member safety amid concerns
Approximately 5,000 babies are delivered each year at Kaweah Delta, where
the Family Birthing Center provides maternity and infant health care.
The center offers the community a 21-bed labor and delivery unit, a 42-bed
postpartum unit, the largest labor/delivery triage area in Tulare County,
anesthesiologists, maternal-fetal medicine specialists for high-risk deliveries,
along with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) staffed by physicians
from Valley Children’s Medical Group. Kaweah Delta’s NICU
is community designated by California Children’s Services as providing
care for infants as early as 26-weeks gestation and has a neonatologist/pediatric
hospitalist on site 24/7.