A chief physician’s view on the new Parent, Baby, and Family Centre in the Children’s Hospital Dritter Orden Passau

A guest article by Professor Matthias Keller, head physician and clinical manager of the children’s hospital Dritter Orden Passau

The idea: Arranging intensive care and cosiness, so that families can authentically be families!

The core concept and intention are obvious: This is a matter of optimally supporting the development of preterm and ill born babies, to improve their life chances. “Our aspiration is care and medicine on a peak level, so that ill and preterm born babies develop in a proper manner, grow and get healthy quickly.  This requires a developmentally supportive environment as well as the presence and support of the parents”, says chief physician Prof. Dr. Matthias Keller. Therefore, during a process of several years, a new type of intensive care unit concept was developed and implemented in Passau, which merges various fields of expertise like medical technology, architecture, interior design and a team of doctors and nurses. As a result, intensive care has been reconciled with cosiness, processes have been oriented towards children and parents, and the prerequisites have been created, so that parents can always be with their children, forming a bond with their child from the very beginning – and of course that the family really can be a family in a physical sense. Because: Ill children need their parents!

Implementation and planning – Neonatology newly defined!

The research cooperation between the Charité in Berlin and GRAFT-architects, which conducted an analysis on the impact of different ambient aspects like room atmosphere, lighting and acoustics on the healing process of intensive care patients, gave relevant momentum and input in this context. “Based on the model of this modern concept, we’ve taken approaches out of adult intensive care, and projected them onto neonatal intensive care.”, says Keller. The interactive online-portal neo(t)räume, which deals with the constructional requirements of a modern NICU and is  hosted by the federal association “Das frühgeborene Kind e.V.”, also had a big  influence on the designers. The actors involved in the project development, besides the usual hospitals planners, were, initially Thomas Willemeit (founding partner of the architecture firm GRAFT) from Berlin, the gs-Architekten-Büro from the Lower Bavarian town Büchlberg, Sigrid Stjerneby from the Planning Office Stjerneby located in Göttingen, as well as the APPIA Contract GmbH from the Lower Bavarian Dietersburg, a field specialist in high grade hotel interiors and in customised furniture manufacturing. “This was necessary, because such a sophisticated unit surpasses the usual NICUs with regards to hospital construction”, explains chief physician Keller. In close coordination with the medical engineering company Dräger, a detailed analysis on essential intensive care processes was carried out, as well as the appropriate optimisation of determined medical technology. “Only through the consistent realisation of our concepts and with comprehensive support through teams of doctors and nurses, but above all through their parents, the tiny ones can master their hurdled start in life at the best”, says Keller.

Being close helps development and healing process

The new Parents, Baby, and Family Centre (Eltern-, Baby- und Familienzentrum, abbreviated as EBZ) in the Children’s Hospital in Passau is divided in three sectors: The NICU for preterm born as well as critically ill children, the general neonatology and the Ronald McDonald House from the McDonald’s foundation for child support. Another special feature is the worldwide first direct integration of the Ronald McDonald House into the intensive care unit.
“With the new building we broke new ground, to combine intensive care with warmth and cosiness and to create a developmentally supportive environment and room for the whole family.” This treatment approach is reflected by the interior design: Parents have access to a special lounge area, with a particularly high appreciation for cosiness – the rooms are equipped with a wardrobe, reading lamp, table, a mirror and WIFI-access. There is a common kitchen for the parents, chat rooms, rooms dedicated to breastfeeding and even a lounge with refreshing beverages – everything directly integrated into the station. Every little aspect, no matter how small, was taken into account, considering all sensory perceptions for the best possible solution: “The comfort factor is one of the key elements! For example: We have installed a special ventilation system and cooling ceilings in the patient rooms, to reduce the children’s and parents body temperature drop off during kangarooing, and soundproof doors as well as insulated partition walls, so that parents aren’t disturbed by other external activities in the station”, Keller explains.

The family in the limelight!

“Always being together, took away some of my anxiety”, says Mother Dagmar from Passau, who remembers her time in the paediatric clinic with her twins Vroni and Toni. Close to two months the three, in the beginning even the four with dad Florian, had to stay in the clinic – Vroni was born with only 790 grams and needed respiratory assistance. Difficult times for caring and treating preterm born babies correctly, in which the clinic’s team utilises family-integrated approaches – in addition to the best medical treatment. The lighthouse project in Passau is complemented through the set-up of Bavaria’s second human milk bank and a simulation centre for preterm infants, in order to train teams of doctors and nurses in the course of needs-oriented care, the optimal handling approach, as well as resuscitation procedures for preterm babies. It is amazing to experience and observe every single day, what has changed throughout the last years. We’ve finally created the best conditions for the optimal care for the tiny ones and we’ve grown much closer together as a team”, confirms the head of station of the new EBZ, Luise Resch-Veit.

A huge fundraising campaign makes the construction possible

Actually realising this comfort for ill children and their families, demanded additional funding apart from existing financial resources. With the fundraising campaign “Wir bauen fürs Leben” (We are building for life) close to three million euros were collected. “We’ve barely missed our targeted funding goal and can be proud of the massive backing and trust from the general public. No matter if associations, organisations, entrepreneurs or individuals – everyone helped”, the chief physician expresses his gratitude, on behalf of the whole paediatric team, towards their sponsors, donors, partners, supporters and prominent messengers, who made the construction of the Parents, Baby, and Family Centre possible.

Selected quotes from our patient families:

  • “We owe you, that our son could develop such a deep, confident sense of basic trust from the beginning. Thank you, that […] I was able to be around my little sunshine 24/7. Thank you, that I could follow my own path, spend hour for hour at my child’s crib, could undertake treatment and was supported during breastfeeding… All that and much more made our terrific well-being today possible and made us feel like a real mom and dad from the very beginning.” (From a letter from a parent)
  • “We’ve been treated and cared for incredibly well here – we feel like we’re in good hands here.” (From an interview with a preemie-parent)
  • “As a mother, to get to see your child directly after its born, even it being laid on your belly, is an indescribable and important experience.” (From a letter from a parent)
  • “My son, my husband and I would like to thank you dearly and are hardly able to deservedly phrase what we were allowed to experience here. We’ve rarely come across people, who are so passionate about what they’re doing and give so much human closeness, friendliness, attention and professional, loving care to all of their patients.” (From a letter from a parent)

Text: Prof. Matthias Keller
Translation: Manuel Kreitmair