Space scarce for very ill babies - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Space scarce for very ill babies

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July 2, 2007


Albany - Hospitals all over the country are at capacity, and can't accept any more premature babies.

The story is very similar at Phoebe Putney Hospital, where the Neonatal Intensive Care unit has been so busy at times, they've had to find an available spot at another hospital which could be hundreds of miles away.

It's the one place a mother hopes her newborn baby will never have to go-- Neonatal Intensive Care, but for premature babies, this becomes home for days, weeks, even months.

"The average census is about 28 babies," says Chief Nursing Officer Laura Cook.

But right now, the NICU at Phoebe is anything but average.  In the summer, the number of premature babies increases dramatically.  One reason is simply due to the birds and the bees.

"There's a lot of babies conceived in the winter months, December, January, February.   So June and July are the months where we typically see a very high census," Cook said.

It's so busy, we weren't even allowed to go inside.  It's too crowded and wouldn't be safe for the babies.  Older video shows how much space the machines the babies need take up.  That's why they are beyond capacity now.  Setting up a satellite NICU and sending babies to other perio-natal centers in the state.

"We were on the phone all day looking for centers where we could transfer babies to," said Cook.

Unfortunately, many of those centers are also at their limits. "Generally it comes down to who has space now."

And although the reason many babies are born prematurely remains a mystery, but early intervention, may be able to reduce these crowded situations.

"We're doing a lot of things proactively to make sure that people receive prenatal care to avoid having a baby in the NICU," Cook says.

Creating vacancies for those who most desperately need to be here.  e transferred to another hospital, Phoebe tries to place it as close as possible, to make the situation easier on the family.

Here's a quick look at he increase of babies in the NICU.  In April, there was an average of 18 babies per day.  That jumped to 25 in May and 31 in June.  The hospital expects that number to grow to about 35 for July.

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