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GMC’s Pensacola team assists in the development of Walton County’s first neonatal intensive care unit

August 13, 2020 · Projects

Walton County’s first neonatal intensive care unit has begun caring for premature and critically ill babies at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast (ASHEC), located in Miramar Beach in Walton County, Florida.

This 10-bed, Level II hospital is intended to care for infants born prematurely, up to two months early, who weigh more than 3.3 pounds. The comprehensive group of caregivers includes board-certified neonatologists (pediatricians with specialized training in the care of critically ill infants), neonatal nurses, immunologists and nutritionists along with a team of specialized nurses, support staff and volunteers.

The current NICU area, originally designed and constructed as post-partum patient rooms, was renovated circa 2016 for NICU occupancy; however, due to regulatory matters ASHEC could not place the NICU in operation. Through the diligent efforts of ASHEC and others, in 2019 the state regulatory hurdles were overcome. With this action, ASHEC turned to GMC, one of Ascension’s multi-disciplined professional design partners, to provide field verification and make the necessary improvements bringing the NICU into compliance with current regulatory criterion.  ASHEC and GMC’s joint efforts were successful in providing a viable NICU available for immediate occupancy and use.

“When parents have their babies at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast, they can rest assured that they’ll have immediate access to high-quality, compassionate care in the event of a complication,” said Roger Hall, past president of ASHEC, in a news release. “The NICU is the hospital’s seventh major expansion in our efforts to increase access to specialized healthcare in our community. We are thrilled to offer this next level of care for babies of our community.”

The NICU was the final phase of the $30 million hospital expansion, which added 13 new rooms to the emergency department, 12 additional inpatient rooms and 12 new post-partum suites to the Family Birth Place.

Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast is the only hospital in the area with a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the highest possible rating. It is also the only one in the area to hold the “Baby-Friendly” designation from the World Health Organization and UNICEF, recognizing its commitment to the highest level of breastfeeding support and education.

About Ascension Sacred Heart
In Florida, Ascension operates Ascension Sacred Heart based in Pensacola and Ascension St. Vincent’s based in Jacksonville. Together, Ascension Florida operates seven hospitals and more than 100 other sites of care and employs more than 11,000 associates. Across the region, Ascension Sacred Heart and Ascension St. Vincent’s have served North Florida communities for more than 145 years. In fiscal year 2019, they provided nearly $180 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty. Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization dedicated to transformation through innovation across the continuum of care. As one of the leading non-profit and Catholic health systems in the U.S., Ascension is committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. Ascension includes approximately 150,000 associates and 40,000 aligned providers. The national health system operates more than 2,600 sites of care – including 150 hospitals and more than 50 senior living facilities – in 20 states and the District of Columbia. For more information on Ascension Sacred Heart, visit