Who's got what? A benchmarking exercise for tertiary neonatal units

J Paediatr Child Health. 2005 Dec;41(12):635-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2005.00750.x.


Objectives: To determine the current facilities available in level-3 neonatal units (NNU) in Australia and New Zealand to assist with establishment of standards for new NNU design.

Background: Many current NNU in Australia and New Zealand are planning new or redesigning existing facilities. There are no adequate local standards for NNU design available which reflect changing neonatal practices.

Methods: All level-3 neonatal units belonging to the Australia and New Zealand Neonatal Network (ANZNN) were invited to respond to a survey on NNU facilities. Questions were based around obtaining information on whether the NNU were planning to build or redesign the space and clinical facilities available in their existing facilities and what support and family spaces were provided.

Results: Twenty-six (six in New Zealand and 20 in Australia) of the 29 tertiary NNU in the ANZNN responded the survey. The oldest facility was built in 1960, with the most recent NNU being commissioned in 2003. Of the 26 responders, 18 indicated that they were planning to rebuild or renovate, with 13 anticipating completion within 6 years. The median floor area for existing level-3 cots was 11.1 m(2) (range 5.5-18.0 m(2)) and 5.8 m(2) (range 2.3-15.6 m(2)) for level-2 cots, respectively. Most units responded that storage space was insufficient (median 1.5 m(2) per cot, range 0.4-3.3 m(2) per cot). Most units had facilities for parents including a family lounge and parent overnight rooms, although 16 units indicated that they needed more overnight rooming in facilities. Noise levels in level-3 areas were described as being 'generally' or 'mostly noisy' in 14 of 25 responses, but noise levels in level-2 areas were less in the majority of responses. Privacy was cited as an issue for 80% of responding NNU with comments directed at either the layout or space constraints interfering with confidentiality or interactions with families.

Conclusions: The majority of NNU have inadequate space and environmental control. The lack of space particularly impacts on infection control aspects, parental privacy and participation and staff satisfaction. Level-2 areas, where parent participation in the care of infants is often greater, should receive as much attention as higher technology level-3 areas. Furthermore, work should be undertaken to develop appropriate local recommendations for NNU design which are acknowledged by local government agencies and professional bodies and take into account the changes in neonatal care practices, integration of family in the care of infants and the needs of the staff.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Benchmarking*
  • Environment, Controlled
  • Health Facility Environment
  • Hospital Design and Construction / standards*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / standards*
  • New Zealand
  • Surveys and Questionnaires