From here to maternity: hospital launches video platform for parents with new-born babies

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From here to maternity: hospital launches video platform for parents with new-born babies

Deirdre O'Connell, CNM2, Neonatal Unit, UMHL, giving a demonstration of the system to mum Ashleigh Fogarty and baby Jack from Toomevara

University Maternity Hospital Limerick has launched a secure video messaging platform to keep parents in touch with their newborn babies in the neonatal unit.

The adoption of the vCreate platform in Limerick was prompted by infection prevention and control precautions and visitor restrictions introduced in response to the Covid-19 public health emergency.

Neonatal units in the UK have been using the technology for a number of years and its use in Ireland is now increasing as an additional support for parents during the pandemic. It will continue to be used after the pandemic to provide video updates for parents who, for whatever reason, may not be able to visit the Neonatal Unit.

vCreate is a secure video messaging service that allows clinical teams in neonatal and paediatric units to send video updates to parents for those times when they're unable to be with their child.

Dr Rizwan Khan, consultant neonatologist, UMHL, said: “Covid 19 has had a considerable impact on visiting in all hospital settings, including on Neonatal. In this video messaging solution, we saw something that might help relieve some of the anxiety being experienced by parents as a result of the pandemic. We are grateful also to Comfort4Covid and to Harvey Norman who have kindly donated devices for our staff to facilitate this video messaging service for our mothers and fathers.”

Deirdre O’Connell, CNM2, Neonatal Unit, UMHL, said: “This will be a very valuable communication tool which we will use to support parents who, for whatever reason, cannot visit themselves. Because of the nature of the service and the vulnerability of the babies to any infection, there is always restricted visiting to Neonatal Units before or after any pandemic. So vCreate will be of use to us long after this passes. Parents may also not be able to visit because they may need medical attention themselves, because parents may live a considerable distance away or for other reasons. This was a great opportunity for us to provide additional support to families and we are delighted to launch the service.”

Gerard O’Driscoll, Head of ICT, UL Hospitals Group, added: “This system enables our clinical staff to send short, secure pictures, video and messages to a named parent. The system is configured in such a way that sensitive clinical information is not disclosed and it has been cleared for use in HSE hospitals from a privacy and data protection standpoint. The ICT department was very happy to assist in rolling out this project to keep parents in touch with our smallest patients.”

The neonatal unit at UMHL is one of a number of busiest specialist units in the country, with close to 700 admissions every year. The unit has 19 cots. It provides neonatal intensive care, high dependency and special care to premature and sick babies of the Mid-West, from 23 weeks of gestation upwards.