Innovative Project Treating Jaundiced Newborns At Home

06 November 2019

Hundreds of mothers and babies have benefited from a program that enables jaundiced newborns to be cared for at home, allowing mums and bubs to bond and have the best start to life.

Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos today visited the Royal Women’s Hospital to celebrate the success of the pioneering screening program, made possible by $434,600 from the Better Care Victoria Innovation Fund administered by Safer Care Victoria.

Infant jaundice is caused by a build-up of a chemical called bilirubin in the baby’s blood and tissues, and affects around 60 per cent of healthy newborn babies.

While mild jaundice will resolve by itself within a week or so, a premature or sick baby or a baby with very high levels of bilirubin will need close monitoring and treatment. If left untreated, infant jaundice may lead to very severe outcomes and can be life threatening.

The innovative program has seen Royal Women’s Hospital midwives administering blood tests in the home to screen for jaundice. More than 2,000 blood tests have been delivered in the home since it was first introduced.

Midwives also provided treatment in the home with phototherapy blankets, which help break down the blood substance that causes jaundice. Since implementation, 213 jaundiced babies have been cared for with phototherapy in the home.

Prior to the program, jaundiced babies were referred to emergency departments, and if treatment was required, mothers and babies would be admitted as inpatients.

Since the program began, an estimated 562 fewer babies presented to Royal Women’s Hospital emergency for jaundice between December 2017 and January 2019, a 53 per cent decrease – relieving pressure on busy emergency department doctors and nurses.

The program also reduced costs and time women and their babies spent travelling in and out of the hospital and waiting for results, which is disruptive to families in the early post-natal period.

Since 2016, the Better Care Victoria Innovation Fund has delivered $11.2 million to 37 projects that draw on our best and brightest clinical minds to find new, more effective ways to treat more hospital patients, sooner.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos

“Jaundice in newborns is distressing and disruptive to new parents and bubs. This ground-breaking program means less time wasted in and out of hospital, so that new families can focus on settling in at home.”

“We’re investing in innovative projects like this one that improve care and peace of mind across our health services.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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