The shortage of nurses has not escaped the neonatal unit of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a consultant pediatrician at the QEH said.
Dr Clyde Cave was speaking today at the celebrations for World Prematurity Day at the QEH.
He said there are few neonatal specialists employed at the state hospital.
Presently there are 18 specialized nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and two volunteer specialized nurses from the China Medical Institute for a period of six months.
“The whole country has a shortage of nurses and specialist nurses in neontology. We don’t have that training programme here,” said Dr Cave who disclosed that nurses are only offered specializations in midwifery, psychiatry and administration.
He said further training and more specialized programmes are needed.
“One of the things we are trying to do is develop the training, maybe formalize it in a neonatal training course but it starts with upgrading the skills of the people we have . You can only get so much training from looking at YouTube and reading books. You have to have somebody actually here to implement it,” he said.
“At 28 weeks a lot of those babies will spend two, three months in hospital requiring a lot of intensive care . . . and we don’t really have the investments because a small baby like that should have one assigned to look after them. For our whole unit we have 2 or 3 nurses on a shift.”
The pediatrician said that the neonatal unit is not for the faint-hearted, but a demanding job that takes an physical and emotional toll.
He said with the island’s declining birth rate, it is important to ensure the wellness of its future.
“We always have to have a hearty working population which is why investing in children and sick children is an important thing because if we don’t look after these babies and they still survive and they survive with greater handicap that is a greater burden.”