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Too many preemies, too few hospital beds

Switzerland, a country which has one of the best health care systems in the world, has a big problem. More and more babies are born premature and Swiss hospitals have no place to put them, according to the daily “20 Minuten.” These hospitals are overwhelmed with the increase in premature births in recent years. With serious consequences for the premature babies.

Babies are considered premature when they are born before the 37th week of pregnancy. In recent years, the incidence of preterm births in Switzerland has risen drastically and is currently estimated as 9% of all births. The reasons of the rise in incidence include the tendency of women to put off pregnancy later in life and the increase in the rate of multiple births, again as a consequence of late pregnancies and the use of assisted reproductive technology.

Unfortunately, Swiss hospitals seem to have limited number of intensive bed spaces in their neonatal units and cannot cope with the increasing number of preemies. In many cases, the premature, low birth weight babies have to airlifted, transported by helicopters to other hospitals. In Zurich alone, it is estimated that about 3 preemies per week have to be transferred to other neonatal clinics.

This relocation can have some serious consequences for some babies. For one thing, those with very low birth weights may not survive the trip. These preemies are highly susceptible to stress and infection. In addition, with the transfer, these babies are separated from their moms who themselves are probably in need of medical care and cannot travel with the babies. This is a time when the babies need their mothers the most.

When I had my twins in Frankfurt, Germany 5 years ago, I opted for the hospital with the largest neonatal unit in the city because my babies were expected to be delivered preterm. Although they had to stay at the neonatal unit for 2 weeks, I was in the same hospital and could go and breastfed them 3 times a day.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have known what to do had I been separated from my babies then. For all those moms and babies affected by this problem, I feel for you.

The Swiss are trying to resolve this problem as fast as they can. I really hope the resolution will come soon.

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