Family Care Unit Enables Overnight Stays with NICU Babies

Family Care Unit Enables Overnight Stays with NICU Babies

EDMONTON – Parents of newborns in the Stollery Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can now stay with their babies overnight thanks to a newly established Family Care Unit.

Nine Stollery NICU beds have been transferred into the Family Care Unit, located in the Lois Hole Hospital for Women at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. These beds are for newborns who are
closer to discharge from hospital and require less intensive care.

“Creating a space where a parent can stay with their baby 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not only provides comfort to a family, but also helps with enhanced parent-infant attachment and bonding,” says Karen Pelletier, Patient Care Manager, Stollery NICU.

The Family Care Unit has larger rooms equipped with breastfeeding chairs and an adult-sized bed for parental sleepovers in the room – furniture that cannot be accommodated in the highly acute care setting of the main NICU.

“The Family Care Unit provides a wonderful space for parents to bond with their newborn babies,” says Brandy Payne, Associate Minister of Health. “This addition to the Lois Hole Hospital for Women will help give some of our newest Albertans the best possible start in life.”

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women is a centre for high-risk pregnancy and deliveries; staff and physicians deliver more than 7,000 babies at the site each year.

Each year, more than 1,100 babies are admitted to the Stollery NICU at the RAH.

Jessica Pott, 33, delivered her twins Henry and Olivia at only 28 weeks on Jan. 21.

“Although parents are allowed to stay with their babies in the NICU 24 hours a day, there’s only a chair at the bedside,” says Pott. “You can’t comfortably sleep overnight — and you’re in close proximity to other families. It can get a bit stressful.”

Last Friday, Henry and Olivia — each now weighing more than five pounds — graduated to the new Family Care Unit, where both Jessica and partner Jean-Michel Cyr can now sleep overnight next to their babies.

“Since there are two babies to a room, we can each have a single bed, and we’re able to have our own space and some privacy,” adds Pott. “It’s nice to be able to have a nap or a shower while the twins are sleeping. It feels like a hotel, but with nurses.”

Support from both the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation (RAHF) and Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation was instrumental in opening the new Family Care Unit.

The unit located in the Lois Hole Hospital for Women was built in support with RAHF community donations; breastfeeding chairs have also been ordered.

“The hospital is setting new standards in patient care by expanding on the idea of mom and baby hospital units by offering family-centred care where dads or other support persons are welcome to stay as well,” says Andrew Otway, President of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation. “This groundbreaking concept takes the patient experience to a new level. The Family Care Unit builds an extremely critical bridge for parents and their newborns to transition from hospital to home and we could not be more proud of the program.”

The Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation contributed $108,000 towards equipment for the new Family Care Unit, which includes a central monitoring system with cardiac infant monitors, milk warmers, breast pumps, a milk fridge-freezer unit and a code cart. Single beds for a parent to stay at the bedside, as well as a fridge, toaster, and microwave were all donated to enhance the family experience on the unit.

“We make sure babies and new parents who need to be at the Stollery or in our neonatal intensive care unit at the Royal Alexandra Hospital get the best, most compassionate care possible,” says Mike House, President and CEO of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.

“This new Family Care Unit will provide them with increased comfort and privacy so they can focus on the treatment and recovery of their baby.”

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.