Neonatal intensive care unit is needed on Maui

In 2017, we had 1,684 births in Maui County. Statistically, this equals 175 premature Maui babies per year, not counting sick babies or Maui maternal transports to Oahu for high-risk deliveries. Maui does not have the required neonatal intensive care unit to take care of these babies. Neonatal staff only has minutes to save their lives. It is risky to transport these babies to Oahu.

Assuming an average length of stay of a NICU infant of 20 days, this is about 3,500 inpatient days, or an inpatient census of a Maui NICU of nine to 10 babies per day. Infants of maternal transports are not included in this number, although they are more likely to be NICU babies. Therefore, we’ll increase the daily NICU inpatient census to 12 to 14 babies per day. These numbers support a Maui NICU.

The March of Dimes gives Hawaii an overall grade D with a premature birth rate of 10.4 percent, 11.1 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 13.6 percent for blacks. This is certainly due to the outer islands lacking NICUs. Maui babies have historically had poor outcomes, some with lifelong issues, some babies die due to lack of immediate attention by qualified neonatal staff with necessary equipment.

There is no justification for the lack of a Maui NICU. I believe it is the same reason as in 2006: Kaiser would lose its Oahu NICU as infants would stay on Maui.

Jan Shields