The final beam being placed in the UNM Critical Care Tower construction
By Makenzie McNeill

Final Form

UNM Hospital Celebrates Placement of the Final Beam of the Critical Care Tower

The chill of winter did not diminish the fervent excitement of staff at The University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) on Friday, Feb. 3.

That’s when employees from across UNMH gathered on the top level of the new parking garage to watch the official “topping ceremony” of the Critical Care Tower (CCT).

This special event commemorated the placement of the final beams into the steel framework of the tower, thereby completing the exterior skeleton.

From Jan. 24 to Feb. 2, UNMH staff were able to sign their name onto these metal beams. Today they had opportunity to watch a crane fly them to the top of the nine-story tower, where a small piece of their legacy will live for generations.

For many staff members, the occasion brought back memories of when the Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavilion (BBRP) held its topping ceremony in 2007.

Doris Tinagero, DNP, executive director of Carrie Tingley Hospital and pediatric ambulatory services at UNMH, remembered the thrill of anticipation vividly.

“When the last beam was skillfully secured on the BBRP, the dream of expanding services for the children of New Mexico was cemented in place,” she said. “There was so much joy, excitement, hope and pride in the building that day.”

Michelle Wafer, MSN, executive director of UNMH Women’s Services, recalled what the topping ceremony meant for her team.

“For the women’s area, the BBRP meant that women in New Mexico had a modern space to experience their new family,” she said. “Whether that be our new labor and delivery suites, or a room where a person could stay the night with her and the new baby, we offered new private space for the family to start their new life." 

For Rachel Rivera, RN, unit director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, the ceremony symbolized advancement for the children and families of New Mexico.

“For inpatient pediatrics, moving to the BBRP allowed us to care for more patients so that they could stay home in New Mexico to receive the best care,” she said. “Specifically, in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, we increased to 20 beds from 12 and were so pleased to offer a bed for parents to sleep next to their child.”

Employees like Tinagero, Wafer and Rivera who witnessed that topping ceremony 16 years ago now feel that familiar rush of enthusiasm about the Critical Care Tower.  

Just as the BBRP represented a brighter future especially for pediatric and women’s services, the CCT signifies a new era in the delivery of critical care services at UNMH.

A new and larger adult emergency department will serve more New Mexicans with life-threatening conditions, and 18 operating rooms with a modular fabrication system will provide more surgical services in a 21st-century environment.

A new adult intensive care unit with 96 beds (an increase of 24 from the current ICU) will help care for more of New Mexico’s sickest patients.

Ultimately, the placement of the final beam means that New Mexicans are one step closer to accessing the services that only UNMH can provide.

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