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01 September 2016

Life Wilgers Hospital has just unveiled its New Neonatal ICU (NICU) – a spacious, comfortable facility that caters not just for infants, but parents too. By Meg de Jong

The time parents spend bonding with their new arrival is precious beyond description —  even more so in the case of a complicated or premature delivery. This very simple yet significant fact is at the core of Life Wilgers Hospital’s new neonatal intensive care unit, which opened in May — a spacious redesign that allows mothers and fathers privacy and comfort as they tend to their newborns.


‘There’s plenty more space for parents, which is so important,’ says paediatrician Dr Humphrey Lewis, adding that each crib can be isolated so the family has privacy.  ‘It’s a huge improvement that they have more access to the children,’ he says. The design of the NICU is geared towards a calming, therapeutic atmosphere, with large windows allowing plenty of natural light into the space. A dedicated milk expression room is kitted out with comfy chairs for mothers to express in private, and there is also a clean sluice room for handling used bottles.


Visits to the NICU are never an easy time for those involved, and parents will often be faced with difficult decisions around the future of their newborns.  Life Wilgers Hospital’s counselling area was added as a space for medical staff to discuss a child’s prognosis with parents. The unit is also equipped with a special humidity incubator — or giraffe incubator —  for premature babies who are at risk of losing too

much water through their skin, and suffering from temperature and electrolyte imbalance as well as dehydration.


While every care is taken to protect newborns from germs and bacteria in NICU, from time to time infection takes hold and the baby will need to be kept in isolation. The new NICU is equipped with four isolation cubicles to keep babies healthy and

comfortable for this duration, as well as host babies from the emergency room or other units.


‘The new unit has been planned according to 2016 needs in South Africa,’ says Dr Lewis. The facility, which can host up to 14 babies, has been well considered and has all the necessary equipment. Most of all, Dr Lewis is delighted with the spaciousness. ‘We have enough space for what we need and that’s the important thing.’


Dr Lewis is joined by a dedicated team of paediatricians and specialised nursing staff who run the unit. Ancillary services from cardiology to physiotherapy as well as ENT specialists are called in when needed.



There are a number of occasions that call for a baby to be admitted to NICU, including premature birth, complication during birth, or being unwell during the first few days. These situations might arise from a crisis in pregnancy due to maternal issues, such as high blood pressure, abnormal placenta, premature labour, premature rupture of the membrane, HELLP syndrome (a liver disorder) or other abnormalities, surgical or otherwise, says Dr Lewis. Babies who need to go to the unit are often admitted within the first 24 hours after birth — they are very young and often haven’t even been home yet.


Length of stay in NICU really depends on the condition for which they’re admitted. ‘They stay until they’re well enough to go home,’ says Dr Lewis, adding that this can be anything up to six months.


The new NICU joins Life Wilgers Hospital’s existing facilities, including a 28-bed maternity unit, a four-bed paediatric unit, a 12-bed general intensive care unit, an emergency unit, infertility clinic, oncology unit and more.



Life Healthcare Magazine

Spring 2016

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