More babies and their families will be able to be cared for at Canberra Hospital’s special care nursery (SCN) following the completion of a $3.2 million expansion of the service.
Four additional cots mean the total number of beds for babies needing some extra support has increased to 18, while another two rooming-in rooms have been added to the space, increasing their total number to four.
Acting assistant director of nursing for neonatology Lori Grlj explained these rooms allowed families to learn how to care for their children as they prepared to be discharged.
“It really gives those families an ability to have time with their babies and be able to consolidate some of the learnings about their babies before they go home,” she said.
“The way the rooms have been designed, they have some joinery which divides the room slightly to provide a little bit of privacy for both families.”
Spaces to benefit families in both the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and SCN have also been included in the upgrade, such as a family lounge area, parent expressing room, family respite room, baby bathing area, interview room, and dining and education space.
Ms Grlj said it was important to include spaces where conversations could be held with parents.
“We’ve got the interview room, which will be great for those incidental conversations for social workers to have with families, or for the medical and nursing team to be able to have with families that we may not want to have by the bedside,” she said.
Babies can spend anywhere from a few days to months in the SCN, meaning the addition of Angel Eye video cameras for the cots allows families who cannot spend all their time at the hospital to still see their child.
“It will be wonderful, particularly for our families who don’t live in Canberra … we might have a family where mum can be in a lot but dad might not be in as much because they’re caring for a sibling or working, so it really makes a difference,” Ms Grlj said.
While seriously ill babies are cared for in the NICU, they can be sent to the SCN if they are born prematurely and need extra care, have health issues (such as jaundice or low blood sugar) or breathing problems, have been born with a low birth weight, or have been moved from the NICU as their health has improved.
The Prasad family spent four-and-a-half months in Canberra Hospital’s SCN after their baby son needed to go to Sydney for heart surgery.
Joy Prasad said the addition spaces for families to gather meant people could share their experiences.
“We’ve been making some friends who have gone through the same journey. It also provides a bit of relaxation for us to have some place that we can have some coffee and watch some TV,” she said.
Having the ability to stay in Canberra meant their son’s five-year-old sister could still feel connected to her new baby brother, even managing a little visit when he was recovering.
“They had a cuddle and then she read to him, she danced for him, it was a beautiful moment,” Ms Prasad said.
“I’m so pleased my daughter has gotten the opportunity to see my son, the way he was born, and see what he has gone through.”
Consultation on the expanded space was undertaken with clinicians, hospital staff and parents, focusing on making the SCN both comfortable and practical.
A new central monitoring system was also installed to enable the vital signs of multiple babies to be monitored at one station, helping to streamline workflows and enhance the care being given to each baby.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the SCN upgrade is one of the last of the key infrastructure milestones of the $50 million Centenary Hospital for Women and Children expansion project, with the overall project to be wrapped up in December with the completion of an additional postnatal ward.
“The expansion of the Special Care Nursery and the improvements that have been made to amenities across the whole Neonatology Department will provide better support for our tiniest patients and their families at what is a very emotional and vulnerable time,” she said.