Moving day is coming up for one department in a central Iowa hospital that cares for the sickest and smallest children from all over the state. Mercy Hospital Doctor Terri Wahlig is a neo-natologist who says the Des Moines hospital already has state-of-the-art intensive care for newborns, and now will welcome their families.

The NICU has been a 30-bed unit, but this weekend will move into a new quarters that’ll have forty private rooms, a neo-natal intensive care unit with high-tech services for what Wahlig calls “these tiny fragile babies,” and also a design that’ll allow a more family-centered “high touch” kind of care.

Dr. Wahlig says hospitals have realized that in addition to the doctors and technology, the presence of loving parents is an important part of a sick baby’s recovery. “What we really want to do is not just treat our patients, but care for families.” She says an important part of that was redesigning the unit to have private rooms where parents can stay overnight with their children who are patients.

She says they think of the patient as just one member of a family — though admittedly it’s the member who happens to need all the medical technology at that point, but it really can’t be done in isolation, she says.

“Babies do better when their parents are nearby and when they have some of the comforts of home.” Dr. Wahlig says it was fun designing the new unit with input from doctors and also from families. “When a baby is sick, it’s not like that doesn’t affect the entire family,” Wahlig says. “We really wanted to draw the family in, make them a part of the care and help them bond with their baby.” Sick, injured and premature infants are sent from all over the state to Mercy’s neo-natal unit in Des Moines, she says.

The hospital’s giving tours today (Thursday) of its new “Mercy East Tower” with the neo-natal intensive care unit, childbirth unit, neurology, imaging and spine centers, and new education and conference facilities.