Tynwald unanimously approved funding for a £3.52 million extension to the neonatal unit at Noble’s Hospital.
Health Minister David Anderson MHK said the project would ensure that, wherever possible, babies that should be born in the Isle of Man are born on Manx soil.
But some members were concerned to ensure the taxpayer was getting value for money. Howard Quayle (Middle) said: ‘We really should have had a full briefing.
‘Capital reserves are getting low. We are not just voting for this because we want to see proper facilities for premature babies.’
Mr Anderson explained the current facility was no longer suitable for the numbers and types of newborn children seen today. The birth rate has risen and there was an increase in the number of older women giving birth, often with complications – and there was also an increase in babies born to mothers with alcohol or drug dependency.
Improvement in the availability of infertility treatment had led to more multiple or premature births, Tynwald was told.
The Minister said the current unit has inadequate cot space, no dedicated facilities for the care of terminally ill babies or for the resuscitation of babies. Overnight accommodation for parents learning to care for their babies does not meet necessary requirements and there are no facilities for disabled families.
‘It has been recognised that the existing neonatal unit does not comply with revised guidelines and a new facility is essential,’ he said.
Under the plans, the first floor maternity unit is to be extended. The expanded unit will comply with current guidelines by providing four special care nursing bays, four intensive care nursing bays, an isolation room, a staff observation base, a resuscitation room and two parent’s overnight stay rooms with en-suite facilities.
The minister said if the unit was not expanded, the number of cots would have to be reduced from nine to four to comply with guidelines. This would result in increased patient referrals to England that would cost an extra £600,000 a year.
Mr Anderson said: ‘We should avoid babies that should be born in the Isle of Man from being born in England and I believe we have an obligation to those parents and babies to ensure that wherever possible, they are born on Manx soil.’