Almost $5 million worth of renovations coming to Halifax's neonatal intensive care unit will allow new parents to spend time with their babies — even if they're not in the same room.
On Wednesday, the IWK Health Centre announced what it's calling the Chez NICU Home Solution, which aims to support families with newborns in neonatal intensive care.
Claire Bonsey's daughter weighed only three pounds when she was born 10 weeks early. That led to a month-long stay at the current NICU — a large room in which spaces for families and incubators are separated by curtains.
Bonsey says it was too loud and busy to get much rest.
"I was there for pretty much eight to 12 hours every day and it never got any easier leaving at all," she said.
44 new private rooms
But the new funding promises to change that and the space will boast many advancements.
The federal government will invest $3 million in developing a secure platform through which parents can leave the unit and be able to watch a live camera feed of their newborn.
The new NICU will also have 44 new private rooms with bathrooms and larger beds for parents. Most of the units will be for single births, but a few will be for twins and one for triplets.
The existing NICU will remain active over the two-year overhaul.
In a statement, the IWK says the Chez NICU Home Solution concept will be commercialized as a product that can be licensed to other health facilities.
Privacy means healthy growth
For Dr. Marsha Campbell-Yeo, the investments are worthwhile. She's researched the project for a decade.
She says this type of setup not only makes it easier for parents, but babies will get healthier, faster.
"We now know that parents who can stay with their babies for prolonged periods of time can impact these babies' development, how their brains develop, babies are more likely to have lesser infections," said Campbell-Yeo.
When finished, the new rooms will come too late for Bonsey and her daughter. But she says she's happy future mothers won't have to leave their new babies each night.
"It would have been so nice to be there through those moments when I needed her and she needed me," said Bonsey. "I'm glad they're doing it."