Waikato's neonatal unit 'overcapacity'

01:58, Dec 07 2012

Waikato Hospital has been inundated with at risk babies this week with lower risk pregnant mothers being transferred to hospitals as far away as Invercargill to cope with demand.

Waikato DHB spokeswoman Mary Anne Gill told the Times they were ''overcapacity'' in the Level 3 section of their neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Waikato is one of six Level 3 (intensive care) newborn units throughout New Zealand - others are at Auckland, Middlemore, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.  

Babies admitted to these nurseries tend to require intensive respiratory support and intravenous nutrition.

Ms Gill said their usual capacity for Level 3 was 17 babies, but they'd been over that this week.

She said capacity started to become over stretched last week and they expected it to continue for at least another week.


The babies were in mainly for problems related to premature births or surgical reasons.

''Fortunately our lower acuity babies have been low in number during the same period,'' she said.

''We do, from time to time, transfer babies in utero to other hospitals. Low risk in utero transfers have been made to Whakatane and Invercargill this week - this is normal practice when capacity is reached.''

She said Level 3 units around New Zealand are also very full.

Ms Gill said staff in the NICU had been working ''above and beyond'' - doing extra shifts to meet demand.

Staff from other parts of the hospital with neonatal experience had also worked some shifts.

Some babies had also been transferred to Rotorua and Tauranga Hospitals.

But Ms Gill said these were babies that were from those areas and who were ready to be transferred back anyway.

Waikato's NICU has seven nurseries, five of which are Level 3 nurseries, with state-of-the-art incubators and respiratory equipment.