NURSES union PASYNO called on Tuesday for the creation of an intensive care unit for premature babies in Limassol as the one at the Makarios Hospital in Nicosia is often overcrowded posing risks to infants, parents and staff, they said.
PASYNO spokesman Theodoros Petelis urged the government to proceed with the creation of another neonatal ICU at the Limassol general hospital as Makarios hospital ICU is expected to serve the whole island.
“In the last two to three weeks more than 60 newborn babies are being hosted there,” Petelis said. He added that the unit’s capacity is only for 48 premature babies.
“It is the only unit that provides such services islandwide. It hosts babies from the government controlled areas, the British bases and the north,” Petelis said.
An overcrowded ICU poses hazards to premature babies, parents, and the attending staff, he said. The growing workload of the medical and nursing staff of the unit, he said, leads to their physical and mental exhaustion.
He added that in December they had asked the health and finance ministries to release funds “for the proper staffing of the unit”.
The possibility of creating a neonatal ICU at Limassol general hospital was also discussed in parliament in December. According to a study, Petelis said, this would cost €480,000.
“There is space in the (hospital) building there […] its operation would decongest the one in Makarios hospital. But there have been no moves yet,” he added.
Expanding the neonatal ICU at the Makarios hospital is also a standing demand of parents. The Miracle Babies association, whose aim is building a new, state-of-the-art ICU for newborn and premature infants at the hospital as well as supporting the existing unit, has been organising fundraisers and events to collect the amount necessary to achieve their goal.
The specific unit, which serves the whole island, both the public and private sectors, began operating in 1985 with facilities to care for 18 newborns, and today, despite having increased the capacity to 48, there is a constant substantial increase in new referrals, and, as a result, the occupancy is more often than not 150 per cent of capacity.
The unit cares for premature infants born at 23 weeks, as well as for full-term infants facing infections, perinatal asphyxia, cardiological, surgical, genetic and other serious conditions.
Each year, according to the group, the unit treats between 850 to 1,000 newborns, while admissions of twins and triplets are steadily increasing. According to international statistics, it said, for every 8,000 to 10,000 births per year, one specialised ICU for newborn infants is needed.