Christus Mother Frances Hospital - Tyler's newly expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is designed to better treat infants and accommodate their parents. 

The hospital on Wednesday dedicated and held an open house at the $6.8 million unit named after lead donors John and Lucy Carr of Tyler. 

About 3,000 babies are born in the hospital each year and about 450 receive intensive care, hospital officials said at the dedication. Many of the babies in the unit are born premature.

The staff is using new technology and best-practices protocols that enhance "our capability to care for those born too sick or too soon," Chris Glenney, president of Christus Trinity Mother Heath System, said in a statement released by the hospital.

The changes, which were made under the guidance of Medical Director Dr. Brenda Morris, improves the unit's ability to offer what Linda Robert, director of pediatrics, calls "family-centered care."

The unit has 28 private patient rooms, including some double-capacity rooms for twins, that are regulated by a light-and-sound system that creates a soothing environment and mimics the natural daylight and dark periods of being outdoors.

Each room has a couch that pulls out as a bed so parents can spend the night. Showers are in the unit so parents can clean up and remain near their child. 

Parents who are away from the hospital can use a smart phone to tap into a video monitoring system and check on their child.

A Transitional Care Room gives parents an overnight trial run so they can become more comfortable with carrying for their child before going home.

The neonatal intensive care unit opened in 2008 as a Level III facility, meaning it is continuously staffed with personnel trained to deal with obstetric complications and fetal conditions and care for women with complex maternal medical conditions.

Expansion of the NICU is part of larger project announced last year by hospital officials.

The project’s second phase would add five private triage rooms for expectant mothers to the Labor and Delivery Unit and five additional delivery suites, said the information released last year.

The Carr NICU is part of the hospital's larger Birth Center, which provides classes to help pregnant women be healthy and better meet the pre-birth needs of their baby and services after parents bring the new baby home. 

Before leaving the hospital, every mother receives a copy of the reference guide "Caring for New Mother & Baby," says the hospital's website.

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