With hopes of treating patients of all ages, officials with Texoma Medical Center held a ceremony to celebrate the launch of its new neonatal intensive care unit Monday. The new department, located in the new south tower expansion, will expand the hospital’s services to pre-term newborns in need of special care.

With the expansion, physicians and doctors with TMC hope to treat newborn patients that otherwise would have been flown to hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, potentially separating families.

“This is the only neonatal ICU between Dallas and Oklahoma City,” Angela Yancey, TMC director of women’s and children’s services, said. “That did not allow parents to stay close to their home area.”

The new department will officially open Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. with 12 patient rooms outfitted for newborns who were born after a 32-week gestation. Yancey said the services are a fairly common need today with health conditions including gestational diabetes and other high-risk conditions resulting in premature births.

When children are born early, Yancey said they may need specialty care and services, including oxygen and other monitoring. The individual rooms will also be outfitted to allow family and parents to stay in the same room with the child, something that could bring some comfort in a difficult time, Yancey said.

In addition to the 12 patient rooms, Yancey said the department also includes to antepartum rooms that will allow future mothers to stay at the hospital up to two weeks ahead of labor for more intensive care and monitoring.

As the hospital continues to grow, Yancey said the new department is built for growth and to be expanded. While the rooms are usually set up for one patient each, Yancey said these rooms are built for up to two patients each.

With the new department in place, Yancey said it could serve as the building block and first step for other services aimed at newborn patients, including infant surgeries and cardiac care.

“There are a lot of things that this serves as a building block for us to add in the future,” she said.

The department is housed on the third floor of the new south tower alongside a new 20-bed postpartum unit and the rest of the women’s and children’s service department. The tower, which opened in early March following over a year of construction, doubled the size of the hospital’s existing emergency room while adding three function floors, with a fourth built out as a shell for future growth.

During Monday’s festivities, TMC CEO Ron Seal said the expansion into the fourth floor will likely occur ahead of schedule later this year. Beyond the fourth floor, Seal said he is also pursuing approval to add an additional fifth and sixth floors to the tower.

With the opening of the new emergency room, Seal said the demand for services has also increased, leaving the hospital again in need of more beds. Seal said it was too early to set a timetable for the construction of the fifth and sixth floors, but said he will be retaining the same construction company that built the initial expansion.