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24/7 baby cam to beat COVID-19 restrictions planned for western Japan hospital

This April 3, 2019 photo shows a newborn baby in a hospital in Tokyo. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- A hospital here has started planning a monitoring system that will let mothers and other family members watch over newborn babies in intensive care 24 hours a day, overcoming restrictions in place since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

    The system is being planned by Osaka University Hospital, based in the western Japan city of Suita, Osaka Prefecture. It enables mothers and other family members to watch over their babies online on computers and other devices via cameras set up near incubators. The hospital will seek donations online to fund the new system, aiming to have it up and running in January 2021.

    Up until the end of March in 2020, family members, including siblings and grandparents of babies born at Osaka University Hospital, had been able to meet with the newborns without restrictions on the number of visitations or time of each visit. But visits were entirely banned between April and June to prevent in-hospital coronavirus infections. At present, only the parents of newborns can visit their children, and the visits are limited to 30 minutes, once a day between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

    The monitoring system was proposed by the Osaka University Hospital's Center for Maternal, Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, in an attempt to create opportunities for family bonding even from outside the hospital. The hospital set a target of collecting 10 million yen (about $94,200) through crowdfunding. An advanced security function is needed to protect personal information of individuals, and the funds will cover expenses arising from the system's development, the purchase of cameras, and other relevant costs.

    According to Osaka University Hospital, a woman who was suspected to have contracted the novel coronavirus delivered her baby in the hospital by cesarean section, but could not meet her child for two days until it was confirmed that she tested negative for the virus. Another family was unable to meet with a baby that was hospitalized in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for a month.

    Yasuji Kitabatake, a doctor at Osaka University Hospital, commented, "There are mothers who feel sorry and blame themselves or lose confidence for not being able to meet their children. Mothers may be able to feel relieved in some cases by watching their babies sleep soundly and being spoken to gently by nurses, even if they're not close by."

    The monitoring will be available for babies admitted to the NICU for the time being. There are cases where babies are hospitalized in the NICU for nearly two years if they are underweight or have diseases. The hospital is also considering implementing a system in the future where children who are hospitalized for long periods and adult patients who are infected with the novel coronavirus can converse with their families.

    Crowdfunding donations will be collected from 10 a.m. on Sept. 14 to 11 p.m. on Nov. 30 via a crowdfunding website at https://readyfor.jp/projects/handai-kodomo (in Japanese). Further inquiries can be made to Osaka University's Department of Pediatrics at 06-6879-3932.

    (Japanese original by Sachiko Miyakawa, Osaka City News Department)

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