Committee recommends improvements in neonatal care

Report suggests tens of millions should be spent on additional beds, doctors and nurses for babies with low birth weight.

December 2, 2010 04:40
2 minute read.
Premature baby

premature baby. (photo credit: Kaplan Medical Center)

A professional committee set up to recommend ways to improve treatment, manpower and conditions in neonatal intensive care units found that 240 additional beds, 89 manpower slots for doctors and hundreds for nurses are needed to reach international standards.

The report was released for publication on Thursday.

The committee, appointed by the Health Ministry following severe criticism by the state comptroller and parents, said carrying this out would cost tens of millions of shekels annually when spread over several years. According to the criticism, numerous “low birth weight” (up to 2.5 kilos) and “very low birth weight” (up to 1.5 kilos) newborns suffer from infections or lack of close supervision and die because of the lack of manpower and necessary infrastructure. The ministry said that it is discussing with the Treasury how much of an increase in allocations will be allowed and the way they will be funded.

Low- and very-low birth weight babies are more common with multiple births that often result from in-vitro fertilization – of which there is a very high number in Israel due to generous funding by the official basket of health service.

According to the recommendations, there should be one neonatologist for every 3.5 beds and one nurse for every 1.5 beds in intensive care, and for neonates getting “special treatment,” 1 doctor for every 6.1 beds and one nurse for every 4.5 beds. The current standard in Israel is significantly lower.

The lack of qualified personnel in neonatal units is so severe that it is difficult to get nurses and doctors to work in them.

Occupancy rates were 159 percent compared to official standards in 2006.

LAHAV, a voluntary organization fighting for the upgrade of neonatal intensive care units, commented that it had been waiting a long time for such recommendations and hoped they would be implemented immediately. More than 10% of all babies here are born at lowor very-low birth weights, it said. It called on the ministry to “act as a regulator and force the hospital directors” to transfer money meant for neonatal units but not used for this purpose and on the Knesset to ensure that money owed to the units over the past seven years (since an amendment to the law on allocations for the treatment of mothers and newborns was first enacted) be made available.

Money not spent to improve the health of very small newborns, LAHAV said, would result in the need to spend funds on helping disabled children and adults.

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