Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

What is a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)?

Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) deliver services to babies who need specialised treatment for critical illnesses during the first months of life. A NICU has advanced life support equipment and a team of highly skilled specialist medical and nursing staff to meet the unique needs of newborn babies.

The CAHS NICUs are located at both King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH) and Perth Children's Hospital (PCH - Ward 3B) and have around 3,000 patients admitted annually. We are the largest NICU in the southern hemisphere.

Special Care Nursery (SCN)

The KEMH based Special Care Nurseries (SCNs) look after babies who are born moderately preterm and/or with low birth weight, who require care for problems arising in the neonatal period. When babies no longer need the high level of care provided in the NICU, they may be transferred to the SCN. 

A SCN is different to the NICU, where more seriously ill or premature babies are kept for closer observation and care. Their health is usually more stable than babies who are in a NICU.  

The KEMH NICU and SCNs include 92 beds for predominantly in-born preterm or sick babies. Out-born babies and those requiring surgery are admitted to the 30 bed NICU at PCH.

Information for parents in the NICU or SCN

Staff will discuss your baby’s condition with you, along with the treatment and expected length of stay. Parents are also welcome to be a part of the daily ward round - please ask the bedside staff what time these are held. If parents are unable to be present for the ward round, they will be updated during their next visit or phone call. 

What to expect in the NICU/SCN

The NICU/SCN can be overwhelming for parents as there are many pieces of equipment, monitoring screens and alarms. The staff looking after your baby will explain what treatment, equipment and monitoring your baby needs. An incubator or heated cot to help regulate their body temperature is generally required, as well as a ventilator that assists breathing (in NICU) and machines to deliver fluids and medicines via tubes directly into their veins. Monitors are usually attached to the baby’s body so that their heart rate, breathing rate and blood oxygen levels can be checked. 

Neonatal staff

There are different types of staff in a NICU/SCN including:
  • neonatologists – doctors who specialise in looking after premature or ill newborns
  • nurses and midwives with special training in neonatal care
  • lactation consultants
  • allied healthcare providers such as social workers and physiotherapists
  • other medical specialists such as anaesthetists or surgeons.

Visiting the NICU or SCN

Babies in the NICU/SCN can easily catch infections like colds, flu, rashes and diarrhoea so it is very important for visitors to clean their hands using the anti-bacterial foam provided. 

Parents may visit at any time but for the health and safety of all babies in the NICU, visitors are restricted as follows:
  • Parents and grandparents only (no siblings)
  • Maximum of two (2) people allowed to visit at a time.
  • One parent must be present during all visits (i.e. one grandparent with one parent).
Special circumstances may be considered - please talk to senior staff about permission for other people, than those listed. 

Last Updated: 25/11/2020