Infections in neonatal units higher in Israel than other Western countries

Money has still not been allocated to hire nurses even though the Health Ministry has recognized the need for better-trained nurses.

NEWBORN BABIES sleep in a nursery at a Jerusalem hospital in September. (photo credit: REUTERS)
NEWBORN BABIES sleep in a nursery at a Jerusalem hospital in September.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
There is an acute shortage of 400 specially trained nurses in neonatal intensive-care units in hospitals around the country, according to the annual Premature Baby Report issued to mark World Prematurity Day, commemorated internationally November 17. Filling the ranks will significantly reduce the infection rates in the units, according to the Forum for Premature Infants.
The forum said Monday that already in 2013, the Health Ministry recognized the critical need for more well-trained nurses in neonatal intensive- care units. As a result, 251 beds – or a third of all postnatal beds – were defined in hospital licenses as being meant for intensive care cases with additional manpower slots for nurses. But the Treasury has still not allocated money to the hospitals to hire the nurses.
Infections can easily be spread among premature babies, said Dr. Shmuel Tzangen, head of the Israel Neonatology Society and a member of the forum’s executive. In addition, a breathing tube or infusion tube could unintentionally drop out or infants could develop pressure sores.
Compared to advances abroad in improving premature baby health and survival, Israel lags behind, he added. The risk of infection is double to quadruple the rates in other advanced countries.
MK Orly Levy-Abecassis, who has been involved for years in improving the situation and is a member of the forum, said incentives are needed to improve care of tiny newborns, but no money for this was included in the new Treasury budget.
The forum also criticized the lack of a national mother’s-milk bank and enough lactation counselors and suitable conditions for breastfeeding preemies in hospitals such as “kangaroo care” – parents holding the babies skin-to-skin.