FRENCH CAMP, Calif. (KTXL) -- It took nearly two years and more than $35 million to build but San Joaquin General's new acute care patient wing has opened.
Some of the tiniest babies born in the county will be cared for at the hospital's brand new, state-of-the-art, neonatal intensive care unit.
Ten babies were moved into the new wing Thursday.
“I've touched the lives of very many babies,” said Michelle Cordova, the NICU’s department manager.
Cordova has been taking care of the hospital's most vulnerable patients as a nurse for nearly 40 years.
“This is the job that I knew where I needed to be,” she told FOX40. “My heart, my heart told me this is where I needed to be.”
She was part of the team that opened the county's first NICU.
“We tried to create a nursery, a special care nursery that will help support our families in the community,” said San Joaquin General’s Deputy Director of Patient Care Services Jackie Bagatta.
Bagatta told FOX40 doctors and nurses at the level 3 NICU now have the latest equipment they say will help them provide the best care for premature and other high-risk newborns.
“Technology brings opportunities for more information,” Bagatta explained. “So as you have more information, you are able to make better decisions based on that individual little patient”
The NICU cribs are now more spread out to prevent infections and to give families more privacy during a stressful time.
“What's nicer now is that we have so much more space so that the parents and family members that will be next to the babies at their bedside. That we won't be on top of one another like we were before,” Cordova said.
The NICU inside the new 34,000-square-foot building has 25 beds, including two new bonding suites where parents can stay overnight with their babies.
“As our babies become more stable and get ready to be discharged home, we want to give our parents and our caregivers the opportunity to have a private room to be able to watch them, provide the care for their baby and have an environment where we can teach them,” Bagatta said.
More than 500 babies come through San Joaquin General Hospital every year. Of those, 80 to 100 of them come from other hospitals.
There's only one other level 3 NICU in the county. Hospital officials say it was imperative they stay up to date.
“So to continue to have another NICU in this community means that the families can stay here and not have to be traveling out to another facility to take care of their babies,” Cordova said.