Bespoke cameras keeping newborn babies, families connected

Posted 29 Nov 2021

New bespoke camera technology will provide comfort and reduce stress for families of premature babies in the Flinders Medical Centre Neonatal Unit.

The remote cameras are among several new cutting-edge items designed for the Neonatal Unit to improve the care of sick and vulnerable babies.

In all, more than $225,000 of technology has been funded to support the dedicated team in the Neonatal Unit to provide the best possible care to babies and their families.

The camera system and another four pieces of vital equipment for the Neonatal Unit have been funded by Flinders Foundation thanks to support from the Freemasons of SA/NT through its Masonic Charities Trust, Amy Purling and the Fun Run for Prems community, the Volunteer Service for the Flinders Medical Centre, and the generosity of the community.

The new camera system, designed especially for the Neonatal Unit and the first of its kind in South Australia, will enable families and caregivers to view their babies at any time.

In the coming months, 40 cameras will be attached to individual cots, allowing families to watch their babies via a live stream on their phone or laptop, around the clock, even when they can’t be with them.

The Flinders Medical Centre Neonatal Unit provides care for more than 1,400 sick and premature babies, and their families, from across South Australia and the Northern Territory each year.

Sometimes, family members experience the heartbreak of being separated from their babies for weeks or months because of work, or challenges associated with travelling long distances from regional SA or the NT. This separation can cause harm and distress.

Amy Purling understands the stress of being apart from her baby. Amy’s son, James, was born prematurely at 30 weeks.

Amy, who now fundraises to help the families of other sick and premature babies and raised funds for the cameras project, said they would offer families peace of mind at a difficult time.

“The worst thing about having a baby in the Neonatal Unit is leaving each night,” Amy says.

“I would get there at 9am and leave after 6pm and every night, without fail, I would cry. If parents are sick, it’s also too risky to go in and visit their baby and I know of parents who have had to stay away for days – that’s just awful.

“The cameras will make such a difference to families. They’ll be able to keep an eye on their babies and witness those important milestones when they can’t be there in person.”

Doctors and nurses will also use the camera technology to provide consultations remotely with families and provide updates while their babies are being assessed and treated.

The cutting-edge equipment includes a Neutrally Adjusted Ventilatory Assist (NAVA) mechanical ventilator, which helps a baby to breathe, and two intensive care incubators. Some of the sickest babies in the unit will also benefit from a new monitor to measure their carbon dioxide levels, rather than having to use a painful heel prick, as well as a video laryngoscope which helps clinicians to safely intubate babies.

“This new equipment will give premature babies the best start in life. It will also benefit our staff by having access to the latest technology to care for premature babies who need intensive support,” says Dr Scott Morris, Interim Head of Unit, Neonatal Unit, Flinders Medical Centre.

“The camera technology will improve the bonding between babies and families and result in fewer mental health issues and stress, which is endured by families who spend weeks and months at the bed side of their babies, until they are safe to go home.

“We are incredibly grateful to Flinders Foundation, through the support of Masonic Charities South Australia, Amy Purling and the Fun Run for Prems community, the Volunteer Service for the Flinders Medical Centre, and the community for their generosity.”

Masonic Charities, the charitable arm of Freemasons SA/NT, has provided $126,400 towards the technology upgrade.

David Booker, the Grand Master of the Freemasons of South Australia and the Northern Territory, said the Neonatal Unit performed remarkable work in caring for the most vulnerable.

“The Unit has some of the country’s most skilled and dedicated staff and their life-saving work has made an enormous difference to the community and the very fabric of society by assisting families and building resilience,” Mr Booker said.

“The caring and giving nature of all the organisations involved in this project align with our values. A major priority for Masonic Charities is to instil hope and provide support for community health and wellbeing, so we are delighted to contribute to the Neonatal Unit’s ongoing success.”


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