In 2008, ACT Health, in conjunction with NETS NSW, established the ACT’s Newborn Emergency Transport Service (NETS ACT). The service ensures the safe and timely care and transfer of sick/critically ill babies in the ACT and surrounding area. NETS ACT is based in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children (CHWC), located at Canberra Hospital.
The NICU has 20 intensive care beds and 14 Special Care beds, where the unit admits up to 700 babies per year with some born as early as 24 weeks. Of these, 150 babies are of a birth weight less than 1,500g and 40% are from either NSW or Victoria.
The retrieval service is staffed 24 hours a day by an experienced doctor, nurse and NETS driver and uses a dedicated road ambulance.
There are many reasons why your baby may require more intensive specialised care. For instance, they may be born earlier than expected, become unwell or need closer observation than possible at your hospital.
What happens if my baby needs to be transferred?
The staff at your hospital will work with NETS and the specialist doctor in the NICU at CHWC. Either a nurse or a nurse and a doctor will come and retrieve your baby. The team will bring an intensive care transport cot (Eric). NETs ACT usually travel by road but NETS NSW often travel by plane or helicopter. The equipment may look frightening at first but it provides everything we need to transport even the most critically ill baby.
It will take time to stabilise your baby and perform procedures that are necessary for safe transfer. Where possible you or a member of your family will see your baby before we leave.
Can I travel with my baby?
Newly delivered mothers and inpatients are not able to travel with their baby, as we need to concentrate on the care of your baby. In some situations it may be possible for partners to travel in the ambulance. The staff at your hospital will arrange the transfer of the baby’s mother as soon as possible. For safety reasons we ask families to make their own way to the Canberra Hospital and not to follow the ambulance.
Moving Closer to Home
When your baby’s condition improves we often transfer to hospitals closer to home. ACT families may be transferred to Calvary Bruce or Calvary John James Hospital. Your baby will be transported in a portable cot or a capsule. A nurse will monitor your baby throughout the trip. If you are medically well and discharged from hospital you or your partner may be able to travel with your baby.
Babies from distant rural areas may be transported via Air Ambulance. A nurse from NETS ACT will transfer your baby to Canberra Airport where a flight nurse will then provide care during the flight. A parent is usually able to accompany the baby. Emergencies always take preference over elective transfers – it is therefore possible the date and time of your transfer could change.
The Neonatal Emergency Transfer Service (NETS) transfers babies between hospitals in the ACT and surrounding area. The NETS service is staffed 24 hours a day by an experienced team. When interstate babies only require special care, they are transferred to a Special Care Unit local to their home. At times, local babies may be transferred to another Special Care Nursery in the ACT.