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A first in Saskatchewan: No-Pokes Jaundice Meters in Maternal Services Dramatically Reduce Blood Tests for Premature Babies

“Routine bilirubin” blood work for newborns has been dramatically reduced, thanks to nine new “no-pokes” jaundice meters funded by the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan.  Bloodwork is now triggered only for babies in a range of possible risk.

“Only 1-2% of babies have severe jaundice, but these babies are at risk of severe lifelong consequences without early prompt diagnosis and treatment”, says Dr. Krista Baerg, Consultant Pediatrician and Associate Professor of Pediatrics.

The new transcutaneous jaundice meters are the most technologically advanced models available to screen for newborn jaundice, which affects approximately 60% of all babies.  Held against a newborn’s chest the meters measure jaundice by analyzing the spectrum of light reflected by the skin.  It is a painless, non-invasive test with immediate results.

“This testing has eliminated a significant number of painful newborn heel pokes and provides important information for follow up and treatment that extends into the community by the nurses of the Healthy and Home program,” says Julie Smith-Fehr, Manager of the Maternal & Newborn Care Unit/Healthy & Home for the Saskatoon Health Region. “One immediate result in hospital is that parents don’t have to wait for lab work which means happier families because discharge is seldom delayed. Moreover, the meters have the capacity to quickly identify newborns that are truly at risk.”

The new screening, modeled after a program developed in Alberta, is one of only two in Canada. The technology, supported by both the Canadian and American Pediatric Societies, allows for low-risk babies to be discharged early and further screening is continued in the community.

Tsevelma CH #3

“I was so pleased that the nurse did not have to poke my baby to monitor the jaundice today,” says new mom Tsevelma Chuluubaatar. “It is heartbreaking for a mother to hear her baby cry in pain; especially when they are so small and new.”

Every day, approximately 15 new babies are admitted and another 15 are discharged from the Maternal & Newborn Care Unit in Saskatoon.  Prior to this $100,000 funding, there were only five jaundice meters.  The Maternal & Newborn Care Unit had only one jaundice meter while the community program, Healthy & Home, had a four meters to share.

“The meters are another tool for nurses to use in the clinical assessment.  This new technology enables us to have more time during our appointments to focus on other postpartum care needs, like breastfeeding support,” says RN Tonia Olson, who is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

The jaundice meters were partially funded by donations to the Foundation’s Holiday Giving Program. The Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan also funded the original five jaundice meters in 2012 when the Saskatoon Health Region implemented screening for term babies. In 2014, the Maternal & Newborn Care Unit and Healthy & Home integrated this testing for babies born after 35 weeks gestation.

“Helping to provide the best in family-centered care for our province’s children and families is one of the key goals of our Foundation,” explains Lynn Redl-Huntington of the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan. “We are grateful to our donors for their support and proud to help our tiniest patients receive care that is second to none.”

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