Koala room for premature babies and their parents in OLVW

In the O.L.V. of Lourdes Hospital in Waregem you can now find a koala room in the maternity ward. This room has been specially designed so that parents and their newborn baby no longer have to be separated during admission to the neonatology department.

Babies born prematurely are no longer in a separate ward, but stay in the parents' room day and night. In the past, special neonatal care was only possible in the incubator department. The parents could only "visit" their baby. Rooming in at the maternity ward was possible, but they still slept separately from their baby.

Thanks to the specially equipped koala room, parents can now be continuously with their baby, in a pleasant, homely atmosphere, while neonatological care remains guaranteed. For example, the room with a connecting door is directly connected to the neonatology service, and parameters such as heart rate and oxygen are continuously monitored on a central screen.

"We pay attention to the baby's rhythm at every premature hour," says pediatrician Stephanie Demeyer, godmother of the koala room.

“We adjust the sleep-wake rhythm to the care by, for example, feeding according to the child's rhythm. Furthermore, as little noise and light as possible - the koala room can be darkened - is important. The less stress the premature child has, the better for the (brain) development of the baby."

In the koala room the team guides the new parents in their learning process as parents. Close involvement in care gives confidence, so that parents can take their child home with confidence when they are discharged.

Emily De Raedt (27) is very satisfied. Her son Rémi saw the light of day on April 5, six weeks early. She could go straight into the koala room.

“I felt at home there. I learned to take care of Rémi independently and in this way got to know my child better. I could do everything alone that we were allowed to go home. "

The O.L.V. of Lourdes Hospital Waregem is the first hospital in West Flanders to realize such a koala room. The Heilig Hart in Mol was the first Flemish hospital with a koala room.

The hospital does this based on its commitment to baby and mother-friendly care, which was recently strengthened by the selection for the FPS Public Health project for development-oriented care for premature babies.

The koala room is a homely decorated hospital room with extra comfort - such as a microwave and a coffee maker - where an early-born child can stay with the parents with the necessary care. In this way, parents no longer just have to "visit" at their premature hour.

Betty Mervilde and pediatrician Stephanie Demeyer see only advantages in opening up the koala room.

“Here we can involve parents step by step in the care. The mums can also switch to breastfeeding more quickly because they pick up the signals from their baby more quickly. ”

For the koala room, new parents pay no more than the standard day price in another room in the maternity ward. Once the usual period of three or five nights - in the case of a caesarean section - is exceeded, the room will have a hotel function and you will pay 50 euros per day. "It is not to be confused with the three luxury rooms that we offer and that offer even more comfort," An-Sofie adds. You should pay a supplement there.

“The pediatrician determines who is eligible for the koala room. For example, it is not allowed if a premature baby needs oxygen. Then the baby stays on neonatology. Whether it's drumming to use them? Let us be positive and especially emphasize that we now have a koala room in our hospital, "says Betty Mervilde.

At the neonatology department of the Lourdes hospital, around seventy premature, sick or weak babies are cared for each year. The prematures are between 34 and 36 weeks old. Even younger prematures go to the UZ in Ghent if the mother has to give birth and the AZ Sint-Jan in Bruges if the baby is already born. It is no coincidence that Lourdes is the first hospital in West Flanders with a koala room: it has been committed as a baby and mother-friendly hospital since 2010 and has therefore been selected for a development-oriented care project for premature babies within the Federal Public Service Public Health.

Sources: Ziekenhuis Waregem, HLN, WTV, Het Nieuwsblad

Photos: Henk Deleu, OLV van Lourdes Ziekenhuis Waregem