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New neonatal intensive care unit at Middlemore

4 June 2002 Media Statement

New neonatal intensive care unit at Middlemore Hospital

Health Minister Annette King says the Government will spend $2 million on a new neonatal intensive care unit at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital to help some of New Zealand's most vulnerable babies.

Ms King said Government funding of $2 million had been requested by Counties Manukau District Health Board to build the neonatal unit structure, which would eventually provide as many as 30 level two and level three cots -- eight more than the hospital's current maximum capacity of 22.

“New Zealanders can be proud of the expert nursing and medical care neonatal services offer to our smallest and most vulnerable patients. This new unit will give these babies the treatment they need in an improved environment, and also provide facilities for their worried parents and families who, understandably, want to be as close to their baby as possible.

“As well, it will give Middlemore's dedicated team of hard-working health professionals a much better working environment.''

Middlemore Hospital offers six level three cots for the most seriously ill babies, but this number is expected to almost double in the new unit.

Ms King said the projected increase in Middlemore neonatal cot numbers was not only positive for the people in the Counties Manukau District Health Board area, but also good news for other neonatal units around the country.

“Neonatal units in New Zealand work collaboratively to provide a national service for babies and families. Events such as the unexpected arrival of premature triplets can stretch local capacity and require pregnant women and their babies to be moved to other units with spare cots. Tertiary neonate units have dedicated electronic access to check cot availability on a daily basis. More cots nationally is good news all around.''

Ms King said the Government was pleased the South Auckland Health Foundation was also committed to supporting the project.

ENDS

Background

Care for the newborn is provided at three levels of intensity in New Zealand.

New Zealand has six level three neonatal intensive care units (intensive care is provided to most babies born at less than 32 weeks gestation or 1500gm birthweight, and others who may require highly specialised care), three level two-plus units, and 11 level two units. Level two or “special care’' refers to nurseries that deal with babies born at 32 to 36 weeks gestation or with a birthweight of 1500 to 2500gm. Some level two units have the capacity to provide additional short term care for infants normally cared for in level three units and are termed two-plus.

Babies who are born or who are likely to be born under 1000gm are generally transferred antenatally or at birth to a level two-plus or level three unit.

Around two to three percent of newborn babies born in New Zealand are admitted to neonatal intensive care units in New Zealand because of extreme prematurity, neonatal infections or congenital problems requiring specialised medical/surgical and nursing care. Around another five percent are admitted for less severe problems.

Neonatal intensive care has dramatically improved the outcomes for babies born prematurely or becoming ill in the first few weeks of life. During the past 30 years the survival rate for babies born with a birth weight between 1001 and 1500gm has increased from about 50 percent to more than 95 percent. For babies born with a weight between 501 and 1000gm the corresponding improvement is from below 10 percent to 80 percent.

The most recent New Zealand data shows that of every 100 babies admitted to neonatal units in 1998, 96 survived and were to be discharged home.

ENDS

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