Bridgeport Hospital is wrapping up construction on its new Allison Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a $7 million modernization of its existing NICU that will expand its patient area and improve its care for premature babies and their families.
Given that the old NICU was about 20 years old, upgrading it to reflect developments in design and care might be expected. What’s unusual at Bridgeport is that the new facility was funded entirely through philanthropy.
“This is unprecedented in the 30-year history of the Bridgeport Hospital Foundation,” said its president Steve Jakab. “Normally we would share the cost of such a major upgrade with the hospital, which typically budgets a significant amount of
However, the general scarcity of financial resources at hospitals in the current climate led to the decision to make the NICU a philanthropy-only initiative. Jakab said that not only did some infrastructure issues — including upgrading emergency power, heating and air conditioning systems as well as building repairs — require immediate attention, but that the expense associated with the state’s controversial hospital tax continues to take its toll. The Yale-New Haven Health System, to which Bridgeport and Greenwich Hospital belong, pays over $200 million annually to the state under the tax.
Accepting the challenge meant approaching families who had experience with the hospital’s NICU, Jakab said. “That tends to be a very grateful population who form a bond with their physicians and nurses that lasts,” he said. “We were able to tap into that goodwill.”
The turning point for the project, whose construction began in late spring 2017, was “a very generous, multimillion-dollar naming gift” from the Allison family of Westport. Although the family had no direct connection to the NICU, Jakab said, “they were captivated by the project and by what our NICU team does.”
The new NICU will host a ribbon-cutting event on Feb. 28.
Although the new NICU isn’t appreciably larger than its 6,000-square-foot predecessor, Jakab said it would feature larger, more private patient areas to promote safe, high-quality, family-centered care. The increased privacy serves to decrease the risk of infection and will provide a calm and quiet environment for patients and parents alike.
The NICU, which will remain on the hospital’s sixth floor, will have eight semi-private bays, six private bays, three private rooms and an overnight room, a consulting room and lower lighting and noise reduction in treatment areas. On average the NICU treats close to 400 patients a year, Jakab said.
“We’re so grateful to the community for stepping up and answering the bell,” he said. “It reflects the reputation we’ve earned for our high level of compassionate care.”