|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2008
Public Hospitals Redesign Neonatal Intensive Care Units
to Mimic Benefits of Mother’s Womb
New Equipment, Environmental Changes Improve Health
for Premature Babies
The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) today unveiled the first of 11 neonatal intensive care units (NICU) that will be specially designed to mimic the nurturing environment of the mother’s womb, reduce the stress of the NICU experience and help the immediate and long term health of premature babies.
"We want to improve the quality of care and health outcomes of the littlest New Yorkers by dramatically reducing stressful external stimulation and nurturing them as if they never left their mother’s womb prematurely," said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. "Loud noises and bright lights interrupt babies' sleep patterns and interfere with the healing and developmental process that occurs during their sleep. We know that premature babies who receive developmental care which eliminates external stimuli can feed on their own quicker, go home sooner and ultimately have better short and long-term outcomes than babies who don't."
HHC’s Queens Hospital Center NICU has been retrofitted with high tech incubators and monitoring devices to control excessive light, noise and room temperatures, which have been proven to impact a preemie’s ability to wean from oxygen support, reach desirable weight and be discharged from the hospital sooner. In addition to eliminating harmful external stimuli in the NICU’s, HHC’s new $3 million Developmental Care Initiative also:
- adopts the consistent use of swaddling the babies in a womb position;
- uses modern multi-function beds that convert from radiant warmers to incubators with the touch of a button to eliminate the stress of moving fragile preemies;
- encourages breastfeeding and skin–to–skin bonding between the baby and their parent known as kangaroo care;
- clusters all the clinical care activities around the baby;
- develops care and intervention plans tailored to each baby;
- offers training and education to new parents.
"The number of at-risk pregnancies continues to climb, especially pregnancies affected by obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. All of these factors increase the risk of preterm birth. The NICU redesign ensures that Queens Hospital and HHC’s other neonatal intensive care units are the best facilities for at-risk mothers-to-be and their infants in New York City," said Dr. Ivan Hand, Director of Neonatology, Queens Hospital Center.
HHC’s 11 hospitals treat a disproportionate number of the City’s high-risk pregnancies and delivered more than 23,000 babies in 2007. Last year nearly 24% or 5523 babies were born prematurely or critically ill, and required treatment in the NICU’s. According to the March of Dimes, prematurity and low birth weight is the leading cause of neonatal death within the first month of life among babies born in the United States.
"Implementing developmental and family-centered care as a best practice in the public hospitals will have enormous measurable impact in the areas of public health and maternal child healthcare including long and short term outcomes, length of stay, parental bonding and coping, staff satisfaction and hospital costs," said Dr. Randi Wasserman, Developmental Care Initiative Principal Investigator/Co-director, Bellevue Hospital Center Regional Perinatal Center. "Our program is unique and innovative and will serve as a model for other NICU’s across the city, state and country."
Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, attribute unnecessary external stimuli with poor health outcomes in premature infants. Once fully implemented system-wide in 2009, every HHC NICU will be equipped with state-of-the-art clinical monitoring equipment, bedside computers and sound monitors that flash warnings to staff when the noise level exceeds the established limit of 45 decibels – ensuring the preemies are able to get the quiet rest they need.
"The Developmental Care training provided by the nursing staff allows new parents and caregivers to quickly become comfortable and confident in handling the baby. Since the babies’ hospital stays are shorter, developmental care unites families faster and is cost-effective," said Leah Smith, RN, AED, Women’s Health Services.
All HHC hospitals are designated by the State Department of Health as Perinatal Centers, with two - Jacobi Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital Center - designated as Regional Perinatal Centers that treat the most critically ill babies. The babies are cared for by highly qualified NICU nurses, board certified neonatologists and certified neonatal nurse practitioners. Additional team members include developmental specialists, lactation consultants, registered dieticians, occupational/physical therapists and social workers who create a nurturing environment for premature babies and their families.
"Childbirth should be one of life’s most joyful moments but for many mothers who deliver preterm it’s a time of worry and sorrow," said Antonio D. Martin, Executive Director, Queens Hospital Center. "Our effort to reduce premature birth starts at the first prenatal visit. Mothers with high-risk pregnancies or those with preemies can rest assured that their infants are cared for in new modern settings, by staff trained in medicine’s best practices - ultimately ensuring a better health outcome for their child."
HHC's Developmental Care Initiative has also been funded by the New York State Health Department, and the Ambrose Monell Foundation through the HHC Foundation. The Developmental Care NICU upgrades are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2009.
The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), the largest municipal hospital and health care system in the country, is a $5.4 billion public benefit corporation that serves 1.3 million New Yorkers and nearly 400,000 who are uninsured. HHC provides medical, mental health and substance abuse services through its 11 acute care hospitals, four skilled nursing facilities, six large diagnostic and treatment centers and more than 80 community based clinics. For more information about HHC, visit www.nyc.gov/hhc.