A $6 million expansion of the neonatal intensive care unit at Medford's Rogue Valley Medical Center will begin in earnest after a 3 p.m. ceremony Wednesday.

A $6 million expansion of the neonatal intensive care unit at Medford's Rogue Valley Medical Center will begin in earnest after a 3 p.m. ceremony Wednesday.

The expansion will increase capacity of the unit from 20 to 32 babies, Asante said in a news release announcing the ceremony. The first phase of the unit is due to be complete next fall, and the final phase will be done in 2010, the hospital said. (Note: The date references in this sentence have been corrected.)

The project will be constructed in two stages, beginning with a makeover of an area of the second floor of the hospital. It will become a 13-room unit with 10 single rooms and three double-occupancy rooms for twins. Second, the existing unit on the first floor will transform into a 16-bed area to serve babies with the greatest needs, a hospital spokesman said.

The unit will be the first NICU in Oregon to be Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design certified.

The unit serves premature babies in a nine-county area from Lakeview to Roseburg in the north and Crescent City, Calif., to the south.

The Asante Foundation is raising a $2 million for the project.

— Staff reports