COLUMBIA — University Hospital now has one of the top burn intensive care units in the country after Monday’s grand opening of the expanded $4 million George David Peak Memorial Burn and Wound Center.
The new facility, relocated to another wing of the hospital, boasts 14 private intensive care rooms and the largest operating room in the hospital.
A special climate control system exists in both the operating room and individual rooms. Since severe burn victims experience difficulties controlling their body temperatures, the system allows doctors to raise the room temperature to over 100 degrees in a short period of time.
James Kraatz, director of the burn unit, said the new unit is among the finest facilities of its type in the country.
The unit combines the best aspects of burn units from across the country, Kraatz said. He estimates there are only 10 to 15 burn units in the country that can handle the severity of an 80 percent burn, and University Hospital is one of them.
“We made a commitment a long time ago that we’re going to provide state-of-the-art care,” he said. “I’m really proud of what’s happened.”
The unit admits approximately 300 patients every year and sees over 600 on an outpatient basis.
Former patient Michael Nolte said being at the grand opening was “very bittersweet.”
Nolte was injured four years ago when the driver of a Ford F-350 truck slammed into the Missouri State Highway Patrol cruiser that he was sitting in while Trooper Micheal Newton issued him a warning. The trooper’s Crown Victoria subsequently erupted into flames.
Newton did not survive the crash.
Nolte was hospitalized for 10 weeks and suffered a multitude of injuries. He said that of all the burn units to be admitted to, he was lucky to be at one of the best.
“To think I was coming back was the last thing on my mind,” he said at the unit’s opening celebration.