Private rooms, live baby cams coming to IWK neonatal ICU

The IWK's new neonatal intensive care unit will have 44 private rooms and technology that allows parents to watch their newborns even if they're not in the same room.

Almost $5M invested to bring private rooms, bathrooms and live camera feeds for parents of newborns

The IWK Health Centre announced what it’s calling the Chez NICU Home Solution with aims to support families with newborns in intensive care. (Craig Paisley/CBC) 1:05

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. 

New mother Claire Bonsey says when her daughter was born 10 weeks early, she didn't get much sleep during her month-long stay at the existing NICU. (CBC)

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.

Cameras mounted above incubators in the new NICU will stream live to the internet. Parents will be able to log on anywhere to watch. (CBC)

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.

For Dr. Marsha Campbell-Yeo researched the new NICU for a decade. (CBC)

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."

With files from Steve Berry, Craig Paisley