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Spain's premature baby care 'among best in world'
SURVIVAL rates for premature babies born in Spain has reached 95%, putting Spain near the top and beating other developed nations such as the USA.
According to the Spanish Neonatology Society (SENeo), one in 13 infants is born too early, but those who come into the world in or after the 28th week of gestation are practically guaranteed to live.
At this age, newborns can be as little as 2lb (900 grams) although sometimes as much as 1.2 to 1.4 kilos (2lb 10oz to 3lb 1oz), meaning even at their heaviest, they are less than half the weight of a typical baby carried to full term before birth.
Even so, Spanish hospitals are 'very well-equipped' for neonatal emergencies, and babies born prematurely are treated 'with great efficiency', the SENeo says.
Low survival rates tend to be when newborns suffer serious congenital health conditions, heart problems or brain deformities.
Even babies born earlier than 28 weeks – roughly six-and-a-half months or before – have an average of 65% chance of survival in Spain, and of those who do, at least two-thirds are completely healthy children who 'go to school and lead a full and normal life', experts reveal.
One of the keys to Spain's success with prematurely-born infants is national hospitals' 'excellent monitoring' during pregnancy through the State health service, which allows problems to be detected very early on and the mother to be referred to a centre which knows it is capable of assisting.
According to the SENeo, 'every hospital is willing to admit what it is able to cope with and what it cannot', which means no delays are involved in referring the mother on to 'the next rung', and coordination between hospitals in these cases is very swift.
Spain's only real weakness in terms of premature births, says the SENeo, is that 'more widespread agreements at national level' need to be brought into place to 'concentrate efforts' into areas by population size, not by regions, since some regions are more densely-populated than others and district hospitals in busier catchment areas do not have the capacity, systems or transport facilities needed.
“Any paediatrician in Spain will be properly trained in treating newborns, but neonatology needs to be recognised and considered as a separate specialist area, given that up to 10% of newborn babies need specific care,” the SENeo admits.
The society is working on a specialist qualification in this area involving two years of training and studying which 'does not overlap with other areas'.
“The techniques medics need to master and the knowledge and experience they need to gain can only be achieved by training in major neonatology units,” the SENeo reveals.
“We don't mean regular paediatricians shouldn't treat newborns; what we mean is that when there's a more complex pathology involved, a person who is specially trained in that area should be in charge in order to guarantee that things are done exactly as they should be.
Dr Vento, chairman of the SENeo and head of neonatology at Valencia's La Fe University and Polytechnic Hospital, has recently been elected head of the European Board of Neonatology (EBN) and is working on devising specialist training programmes in treating prematurely-born babies across the continent.
“There are still huge differences between countries,” he says.
“But we want to design and implement maximum-quality common procedures and to provide the necessary accreditation for neonatology training and research centres across the EU.”
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