‘Really worried for the future’: Edmonton mom with baby in NICU pleads with public

Click to play video 'Edmonton mom with NICU baby shares concerns over hospital pressures' Edmonton mom with NICU baby shares concerns over hospital pressures
The mother of a premature baby requiring intensive care at the Misericordia Hospital recently learned nurses from the NICU are being re-assigned to other areas of the Edmonton hospital due to mounting pressures on the system. Sarah Ryan reports – Dec 14, 2020

An Edmonton mother is sharing her family’s experience having a loved one in the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, in hopes it helps people understand the mounting pressures on Alberta’s healthcare system.

Rebecca Pinto’s daughter, Ophelia, was born nine weeks premature.

“She was born very small, very tiny,” Pinto explained.

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Ophelia was quickly admitted to the NICU at the Misericordia Hospital, and required the care of doctors, nurses, nutritionists and respiratory therapists.

“Constant observation, supported breathing, she needs to have tube feeds right now,” Pinto explained.

“She needed a heated bed to regulate her temperature.”

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Last week, during a conversation with one of the staff members in the NICU, Pinto was told changes were coming to the unit, as a result of the pandemic.

“Nurses have to be redeployed to other units, other places, in order to help deal with the COVID crisis. There’s staff shortages everywhere,” she explained.

In a statement to Global News, Covenant Health said “With lower patient numbers in the NICU, some NICU staff have been reassigned to areas where more staff is required.”

“Any reassigned staff who are working outside their usual areas of responsibility will be part of teams that are led by experienced staff with the necessary training to oversee patient care,” the health authority said.

Click to play video 'Alberta takes on new tactics encouraging COVID-19 rule compliance' Alberta takes on new tactics encouraging COVID-19 rule compliance
Alberta takes on new tactics encouraging COVID-19 rule compliance – Dec 14, 2020

The statement also noted that due to surging numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitals across the province are working on an alternate care models.

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“In the team model, there isn’t a nurse to patient ratio; but rather the assembled team on each unit will care for the patients,” the statement said.

For Pinto, the idea that nurses have to be pulled from the NICU is worrisome.

“It’s just really sad that’s where we have to get our staff from because we are so short and so overwhelmed.”

So far, she’s been very pleased with the quality of care Ophelia has received at the hospital, but is concerned about what might happen if the number of people testing positive for the novel coronavirus continues to grow.

“It makes me really worried for the future — like in a month. What’s it going to be like in a month?”

The Pintos will experience those changes firsthand, as Ophelia is expected to be in the NICU for another six to eight weeks.

READ MORE: Alberta nurse practitioner describes ICU during pandemic: ‘We’re feeling a bit defeated’

Her older sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins won’t get to meet her during that time because of COVID-19 precautions in hospitals.

Ophelia’s mom chose to share her story in hopes of encouraging others to take all the necessary precautions, to alleviate some of the mounting pressures across the healthcare system.

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“This doesn’t affect just the people who have COVID, or their family members, or their friends, or the people who are high risk — it’s affecting everyone,” she said.

“This COVID crisis is affecting even these brand new babies.”