(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Premature babies born after 24 to 28 weeks of gestation are at high risk for life-threatening intra-cranial bleeding, with the risk at 20% compared to only 6% in other Western countries, according to the Forum for Premature Babies. The forum, which is composed of the volunteer organization Lahav and the Israel Neonatology Society, released a report to mark the Tuesday’s Israel Premature Baby Day.
The forum warned of the immediate shortage of specialists in pediatric intensive care units, with about 100 neonatal specialists and 60 pediatricians in the country’s hospitals.
Because of the lack of alloted jobs for pediatricians, neonatologists are required to treat full-term babies in addition to treating pre-term infants and newborns with complicated conditions.
Although infections in neonatal intensive care units have been reduced by 50% in recent years, the forum said, they still exist.
The organization charged that a year after the Health Ministry issued instructions for better follow-up of premature babies, those directives are still not being carried out in the community. A survey conducted by the forum found that 45% of premature infants did not receive physiotherapy within a month after leaving the hospital; more than 70% of them did not get a nutritional consultation from a clinical dietitian; 80% of the parents were not contacted by a social workers; and 90% of the infants were not scheduled to see a hearing specialist.
Only some of the health funds are carrying out the ministry’s guidelines, the forum said.
The survey, conducted in cooperation with the Weinberg Child Development Center at the Sheba Medical Center, found that up to one month after discharge, about 54% of premature infants were not scheduled for physiotherapy, contrary to the circular guidelines.
More than 70% of preterm infants were not enrolled for dietary monitoring Approximately 80% of parents of premature infants were not invited to an evaluation by a social worker, as prescribed in the circular’s guidelines. Fully 90% of pre-term infants were not summoned for diagnosis by a speech therapist.
MK Orly Levy-Abecassis said that despite years of promises from the ministry to open a mother’s milk bank, nothing has come of it, and a “black market” in breast milk has developed that could expose newborns to infections.
Meanwhile, the ministry said its multi-year program to promote the health of premature babies has been budgeted NIS 200 million. The health of babies in the country’s 29 neonatal intensive care units has significantly improved, with more doctors and beds and fewer infections, said the ministry.
The outstanding neonatal intensive care units named in the report were – among large centers – Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Rambam Medical Center in Haifa and Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer; among medium-sized centers, Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and Emek Medical Center in Afula; and in small centers, Carmel Medical Center in Haifa, the English Hospital in Nazareth and Poriya Medical Center in Tiberias.
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