Latifa Women and Children Hospital
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Latifa Women and Children Hospital revealed that its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which is the largest NICU in the northern emirates — received 701 admissions from the beginning of 2019 up to August.

Out of the 701 admissions in the NICU, 53 per cent (372) were preterm babies.

Dr Mahmoud Saleh Elhalik, Consultant Neonatologist and Head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Latifa Hospital, revealed that; so far in 2019, the NICU had eight babies below 500 grams; adding that the smallest is 375 grams and is still receiving intensive care over the last 2 weeks.

Meanwhile, in 2018, the NICU received 975 admissions out of which, 60 per cent (585) were preterm babies. In 2018, seven weighed less than 500g, the smallest preterm baby weighed 420g and six were discharged in a very good condition.

We emphasise the importance of breastfeeding and the mother’s own milk as the main source of feeding newborns in NICU.

- Dr Mahmoud Saleh Elhalik, Head, NICU, Latifa Women and Children Hospital

Latifa Women and Children Hospital has an average of 4,000 to 4,500 deliveries per year. The bed occupancy of the hospital’s NICU reaches on average to almost 85 per cent. Meanwhile, the average length of stay at the hospital is 21.47 days. The NICU has 64 beds dedicated for neonates. Its team includes 23 doctors, four respiratory therapists and almost 160 nurses who work round-the-clock.

Neonatology services provide comprehensive medical care for newborn infants, including high-risk critically ill neonates, extreme preterm infants born at 23-24 weeks’ gestation or referred sick neonatal cases.

Preterm babies are those born before 37 weeks, normally weigh less than 2.5kg, and therefore need essential care to be nursed back to health, including protection from infections, ensuring that they are kept warm, ensuring skin-to-skin contact with the mother and that they are receiving sufficient breast milk.

A baby weighing 500g will usually stay in the hospital for almost 90 days.

Dr Elhalik said that some of the factors that can increase risks of going into early labour are: smoking, chronic illnesses, eating unhealthy food, certain infections, such as urinary tract, or other abnormalities related to the reproductive system.

Dr Elhalik revealed that there are plans to standardise neonatal care in Dubai through the Dubai Neonatal Network, a programme developed by Latifa Hospital neonatologists. “The network will retrieve data related to neonatal services in all NICU’s in Dubai to help benchmark neonatal services, collect data and offer comparative analysis and an opportunity for quality improvement projects in different neonatal intensive care units. Implementation will be through the Health regulation department in DHA.”

He added that collecting this data will help enhance neonatal care in all NICU’s in the country.

Dr Elhalik said that Latifa Hospital is equipped with the most advanced neonatal ventilation modes and haemodynamic monitoring that ensures pioneering neonatal services. “The unit also stresses the importance of family-centred care, in which parents are actively involved in the management of the baby through kangaroo care.”

He revealed that healthcare professionals at the hospital teach the mother and father kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact between the baby and their parents) from day one, adding that parents’ loving touch has proven to have many health benefits.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), kangaroo care is one of the most effective ways to meet a premature baby’s needs for warmth, frequent breastfeeding, protection from infection, stimulation, safety and love. The WHO estimates that this technique could save an estimated 450,000 preterm newborns a year.

“One of the key benefits of kangaroo care is aiding the lactation process,” explains Dr Elhalik. “We emphasise on the importance of breastfeeding and the importance of mothers’ own milk as the main source of feeding for our newborns in NICU. We managed to achieve around 85 per cent compliance on this concept, which is 15 per cent more than the international figures of similar NICU’s. This contributed in achieving good outcomes for newborns admitted to our unit, and comparably excellent results on benchmarking with high-standard NICUs worldwide such as the Vermont Oxford Network, which the department is a member of.”

Latifa Hospital is also a pioneer in Dubai to provide a family room in the NICU, where the neonate — especially in complicated cases — and their mother stay for a few days prior to discharge from hospital to practice the bathing, feeding and routine care for her newborn.