Dignity Health Mercy San Juan Medical Center to Open New Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


The state-of-the-art space offers hope of a healthier start to life for hundreds of Greater Sacramento Area newborns.

Carmichael, Calif. (September 22, 2020)Dignity Health announced today the completion of construction of the new ‘Robert S. and Star Pepper Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’ at Mercy San Juan Medical Center. The NICU spans 17,889 square feet and is a huge increase over the previous 1,200-square-foot space originally built it 1989. Mercy San Juan’s original NICU was among the first of its kind in Northern California. Over the past three decades, the practice of neonatology has progressed significantly and the Sacramento region has grown exponentially and therefore so have the community’s needs for the NICU. Since its inception, the hospital has always grown with its community, and the development of the new NICU further demonstrates Dignity Health’s continued commitment to carry out its mission of improving the health of the people we serve, especially those who are most vulnerable.  

On average, 400 babies annually receive life-saving care at the NICU, with many transferred from other Northern California hospitals that are unable to provide the high-level care they require. The NICU has cared for some of the most critically ill babies who are born as early as 23 weeks and weigh as little as 400 grams. The new Level III NICU will now be able to accommodate 40 infants in 16 private rooms and eight three-bed pods. The private rooms are available for multiple birth family sets, isolation for infants whose circumstances require it, and a private place for families to say a loving goodbye to NICU babies who, despite every effort, will be unable to survive. The new space also offers parents the opportunity to stay at the bedside of their baby at all times.     

“For over 30 years, Mercy San Juan Medical Center’s NICU has been a life-saving resource for families throughout the Sacramento region,” said Mercy San Juan Medical Center president, Michael Korpiel. “The new unit will house the remarkable neonatologists and nurses who have made the NICU what it is today and continue to offer this urgently needed, excellent care to our region’s most vulnerable babies.”

Despite caring for many of the sickest and most-fragile infants in the Sacramento region, Mercy San Juan Medical

Center’s NICU had a mortality rate of 1.1 percent in 2015— among the lowest in the nation.

“Thanks to Bob and Star Pepper and numerous other donors and supporters of this project, the department now has the facilities and equipment it needs to continue carrying out its extraordinary life-saving work,” said Kevin Duggan, President and CEO of Mercy Foundation. “It is through this thoughtful generosity of many that the NICU can continue to be a source of comfort, hope and advanced medical care for fragile infants in our community for generations to come.”

With Dignity Health’s commitment of $35 million to make the new NICU a reality, Mercy Foundation led the efforts to raise community support and donations for the additional $3,080,000 needed to expand and update the NICU at Mercy San Juan.

“The work they do there is just incredible. They’ve accomplished miracles in very tight quarters. You merely have to look at some of the little babies that can fit in the palm of your hand and realize that they’re able to save their lives so Star and I are very pleased to have had a role making this new unit possible,” said Bob Pepper.

As most premature babies are in the NICU until they reach what would have been 36 to 40 weeks gestation, they may be in the care of NICU staff for months, with parents who are trying to balance work, caring for family at home, and being at the hospital for their new baby. Central to this initiative was the desire to offer families the opportunity to stay with their infants. Research has shown that these tiny patients have the best chance at survival when they are able to bond with their parents or guardians. The new NICU offers families a comfortable space with enough room in which to nurture their new babies and get to know them. An important element for people like Scott and Cary Boese, who know very well the difficult journey that can come with being parents to babies who need high-level care.

“When we heard news that the new NICU would be built, we were overcome with joy and emotion, because the unit represents more than just additional bed space. It gives our community access to a modern facility, new technology, and room for privacy, so that parents can bond with their fragile children,” said Cary.  

The NICU will be up and running to receive its first patient sometime in late October to early November.

Watch a video tour here.

About Dignity Health

Dignity Health is a multi-state nonprofit network of 10,000 physicians, more than 60,000 employees, 41 acute care hospitals, and 400-plus care-centers, including community hospitals, urgent care, surgery and imaging centers, home health, and primary care clinics in Arizona, California, and Nevada. Dignity Health is dedicated to providing compassionate, high-quality, and affordable patient-centered care with special attention to the poor and underserved. Dignity Health is a part of CommonSpirit Health, a nonprofit health system committed to advancing health for all people and dedicated to serving the common good. For more information, please visit our website at www.DignityHealth.org.

About Mercy Foundation

For more than 65 years, Mercy Foundation has been partnering with the community to advance the mission of the Sisters of Mercy, who have served the Sacramento region since 1857. Together, we help feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, educate the underserved, and care for the sick at local Dignity Health hospitals and clinics.

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