Does after-hours in-house senior physician cover improve standard of care and outcomes in high-risk preterm neonates? A retrospective cohort study
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AIM: To compare the standard of care and outcomes to discharge for inborn high-risk preterm (gestation <32 weeks) neonates admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) before and after adopting an after-hours in-house senior physician cover roster (ISPCR). The ISPCR involved the presence of a consultant neonatologist or neonatal fellow in the NICU until 11 pm. METHODS: This was a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data for 12 months before (1 February 2002 to 31 January 2003, epoch 1) and after (1 April 2003 to 31 March 2004, epoch 2) adopting the ISPCR. Short-term neonatal outcomes, including mortality and morbidity such as intraventricular haemorrhage, retinopathy of prematurity, necrotising enterocolitis and chronic lung disease, were examined. The standard of acute care, including admission temperature, correct positioning of tubes and lines, and preventable ventilatory complications in the first 8 h following admission, was also compared. RESULTS: The numbers (235 in epoch 1, 245 in epoch 2), demographic characteristics and severity of illness (CRIB score) of neonates admitted to the NICU was comparable between epochs. Overall neonatal outcomes did not show significant improvement after adopting an ISPCR, nor were they improved for after-hours admissions in the presence of senior in-house physicians. The standard of acute care was also not significantly different. Minor improvements, such as earlier administration of surfactant, were noted in epoch 2. CONCLUSIONS: Adoption of an ISPCR was not associated with any significant change in the standard of acute care and short-term outcomes for inborn neonates <32 weeks' gestation.
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