'You just have to cope for your child's sake' - Kiwi parents suffering as hospitals struggle with shortage of neonatal beds

Source: 1News

Parents are suffering "emotionally, financially and physically," as hospitals struggle with a shortage of neonatal beds.

Mothers are being sent across the country to have their babies - detailed in a letter by a paediatrician and obtained by 1 NEWS.

The paediatrician outlined their concerns to the Ministry of Health and wrote about a couple who were forced out of Auckland to Palmerston North Hospital for several weeks.

They said the mother was "developing depression as a result of feeling isolated" and it was impeding her breast milk supply. The father had also "exhausted his paternity leave and feels he cannot leave his wife to return to Auckland for work".

Another mother 1 NEWS spoke to, Gen Zimmerman, was forced to have her baby in Wellington after Waikato Hospital ran out of neonatal beds.

Emily was born at just 24 weeks in April, and Gen has had to stay in Wellington for over a month. Gen’s husband is a dairy farmer and hasn’t been able to be there.

"[Emily] had to have surgery yesterday on an issue and he couldn’t be here because he’s got to work. That’s horrific, absolutely horrific for us. If we were in Taranaki, he'd be able to commute," Gen says.

Waikato DHB's Michelle Sutherland says the neonatal unit has been at 105-110% capacity for the past 6 months, meaning they’ve had to bring in extra beds. Five women have had to be sent to other hospitals around the country.

The increase in demand is due to a number of factors, including babies staying in intensive care for longer, and more premature babies as mother’s have children later.

The Ministry of Health says it is aware about pressure on neonatal units and has "considerable sympathy for the disruption and difficulty caused by any additional travel required".

It says a review is currently underway and a report and recommendations will be provided to the Ministry and DHBs before the end of the year.

The review will cover a range of aspects including current drivers of demand, options for enhanced clinical governance, and possible options for addressing the issues identified.