Newborn Care at Gold Coast Health comprises of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Special Care Nursery (SCN), and are together termed the Newborn Care Unit (NCU). The service is located on the third floor of Gold Coast University Hospital and accepts sick babies from private and public hospitals across the Gold Coast and northern NSW.
A team of neonatologists (doctors specialising in sick infants), neonatal nurses and allied health specialists look after each baby and their family with input from many other teams in the hospital. The NCU manages babies born as early as 23-24 weeks gestation and those with other severe or complex illness including babies requiring certain surgical procedures. However, some specialised conditions require transfer of mothers and babies to Brisbane.
In addition Newborn care also provides:
- antenatal consultation for complicated pregnancies
- support to Maternity staff in review of well babies after birth
- follow up of specific conditions in neonatal outpatient clinics or (in some cases) in the home
- new and better ways to treat and care for babies through research
When can I visit my baby in the NCU?
Your baby’s health is truly a team effort, and you are a very important member of that team. We look forward to working with you during your baby’s stay. We encourage you to visit frequently; we also welcome phone calls at any time if you just want to check in on your baby when away from the hospital. Your baby’s nurse and doctor are available to address any questions or concerns about your baby’s care.
The NCU provides a family centred model of care which recognises that the best outcomes for babies are achieved when family members play an active role in their care. The NCU was the first entirely Single-Family-Room neonatal unit in Australasia, designed to provide an environment which is more conducive to family bonding and infant development. Normally each baby (or family in the case of twins) will have their own room with a recliner or day bed for a parent to sit nearby.
Parents are encouraged to be part of ward rounds and other clinical discussions, breastfeeding is encouraged as is provision of hands-on care (including skin-to-skin holding, giving medications if needed, taking temperatures and changing nappies).
To protect the sleep patterns of the premature and sick babies’ visitors are limited to four per baby at any time. A parent must be present with all visitors unless there is signed consent from a parent that specifies other adults can visit independently.
Children may present a unique infection risk to the babies on the unit. In the interests of promoting family bonds, siblings are welcome as long as they are well (no coughs, colds etc.) and are supervised. To limit infection risk we do not allow children other than siblings to visit unless during very specific and difficult situations.
Please try to limit the loudness of all conversations as noise can affect the health and development of premature babies. It may be beneficial to give small children frequent breaks out in the play area at the NCU main reception, in the Family Room or downstairs in the gardens.
We can arrange for parents to visit the NCU prior to delivery. This most often occurs after a request from the Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic or the Maternity Inpatient Unit at GCUH. It is best to ask your midwife or obstetrician to arrange this visit.
All visitors will initially enter the NCU Reception area. Please speak to the reception staff if you are uncertain where to go. The babies in the unit are vulnerable to infection. Everyone entering the NCU is required to wash their hands.
The NCU at Gold Coast University Hospital was designed with the needs of babies and their parents in mind. Each room has a small refrigerator for breast milk and medications, a storage cupboard for your use, a sink to wash hands and either a recliner chair or sleeper couch. You may also bring books, clothes and blankets for your baby (please label everything with your baby’s name), although you may have to wait until they are more stable before using these items.
Family spaces are located throughout the NCU to give you and your family a quiet place to relax and visit. The Ronald McDonald Family Room near the main unit entrance provides a retreat from the clinical environment and includes a small lounge, dining and play area. There is also a kitchen, laundry facility, bathrooms and shower. Food and beverages can be stored in the Family Room fridge. There is a computer available in the Family Room and free WiFi throughout the hospital. The NCU courtyard can also be used to meet with other families or visitors. Children under the age of 18 must be supervised in family areas at all times.
We work with the Maternity service to provide at least 1 home visit for all babies discharged from the NCU to homes on the Gold Coast. Severe cases may have input from our Nurse Navigator with the aim of improving your journey both within the NCU and when you transition to home. Outpatient follow up is offered for some babies who have required intensive treatment in the NICU or Special Care Nursery. This may involve follow up with a neonatologist but can be extended to include complex review and treatment by the Allied Health team. Outcomes of infants with severe neonatal presentations are assessed at 2 years of age by an in-depth developmental assessment; however our aim is to review at risk infants early and take steps to help as soon as possible.
Each year the staff in the NCU participate in multiple research studies. Some of these are locally based and others are part of larger trials run across many hospitals. The goal of this research is to find better treatments and improve outcomes for babies and their families. We will always discuss any research with parents before enrolling babies in studies.