Transporting Critically Ill Newborns

A pregnancy can be one of the happiest yet most stressful of times for parents. When a newborn is critically ill, that stress is magnified a hundredfold. Neonatal specialists at McMaster Children’s Hospital lend their expertise and dedication to families like this every day.

Two members of the Neonatal Transport Team holding a transporter.

The Neonatal Transport Team

The Neonatal Transport Team is comprised of nurses with advanced training in neonatal stabilization. Two transport nurses can be dispatched to community hospitals throughout the region 24 hours a day, seven days a week to care for critically ill newborns and bring them to McMaster Children’s Hospital by ambulance.

Difficult beginnings

“The patients can be infants born very prematurely, as early as 23 weeks’ gestation, to full-term babies that are up to 28 days of life who require stabilization and transfer to a specialized centre like we have here,” says Deb Bernard, Clinical Leader of the Neonatal Transport Team.

Respiratory distress is one of the most common reasons why the team is contacted for transport to McMaster Children’s Hospital, which is home to the largest Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Ontario.

Equipped for the job

“The team uses a special ‘transporter’ when dispatched to stabilize a patient,” explains Deb. “The transporter is essentially a hospital on wheels that is equipped with an incubator, ventilator and all of the necessary monitors and medications required to care for critically ill newborns.”

Last year, the Neonatal Transport Team fielded more than 750 calls from community hospitals, with more than 600 infants requiring transport services.

“It’s exciting to be a part of a team that’s able to help some of our most vulnerable patients and make a difference in lives that are just starting out.”