Lack of neonatal ICUs ups rate of preemie deaths

Severe shortage of medical specialists means care of tiny newborns is declining, according to Forum for Premature Babies.

November 6, 2012 04:48
2 minute read.
A PREMATURE BABY born in an Israeli hospital

A PREMATURE BABY born in an Israeli hospital 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Forum for Premature Babies)

A severe shortage of neonatalogists – medical specialists in the care of premature babies – as well as specialized nurses and incubator beds, means the medical care of tiny newborns is declining and mortality rates are increasing, according to the Israel Forum for Premature Babies.

The forum issued its fifth annual report on Monday to mark World Prematurity Day.

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Due largely to the increase in fertility treatments through in-vitro fertilization, the number of infants born prematurely is increasing, and there is no significant reduction in the rate of illness, disability and death among them.

MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Yisrael Beytenu) said Monday that “the subject burns in my bones, and the data are not surprising. While this year, the annual day will not be marked in the Knesset [because of the election recess], I will continue to work toward implementation of the promises we received last year for significant improvement of infrastructure in neonatal intensive care units.”

There is a shortage of 180 neonatologists in hospitals around the country as well as a lack of 150 pediatricians and 700 nurses in regular newborn departments, the report said. Ninety more hospital neonatal beds are needed.

Due to complications from pneumonia and other medical problems, one of eight premature babies returns to the hospital during their first five years of life – five times the rate of children born in ordinary departments.

The rate of infections acquired by premature babies in Israeli hospitals is 50 percent higher than the average in other Western countries due to the overcrowding and lack of staff.

The mortality rate among the babies has increased in the last few years from 15.6% to 18.1%.

In addition, the forum said, the National Insurance Institute should increase by NIS 50,000 the amount of allocations to take care of each preemie weighing less than 1,750 grams.

The Israel Neonatal Network (including the Gertner Institute for Health Policy Research and the Israel Center for Disease Control) issued its 16th annual report on very-low-birthweight infants on Monday.

In 2010, there were 1,626 births of babies 1.5 kg. and below – 1% of all the babies born in that year. Of this figure, 16.9% were born weighing less than 750 grams and thus considered to be at very-low birthweight.

Fewer babies, however, were born in very early months (24th or 25th week) of gestation. But the rate of congenital defects was 9.4% in 2010 compared to 7% in 2001 to 2003.

The cesarean birth rate among the mothers of premature babies declined somewhat, from 71.3% in 2009 to 68.8% in 2010.

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