Late last year the Rotary Club of Hall was approached by new mum Annabell Fenton and husband Brett. The letter received by our Community Director began as follows:


Max Fenton in the old Canberra NICU in 2011

“On 18 July 2011 our world was turned upside down when our son Max was born two weeks early at Calvary hospital. Max came out small, however screaming at the top of his lungs. It was not until about 10 min later that things started to go terribly wrong and it was clear that Max needed some serious medical attention. At 4 hours old, Max was transported by the ACT NETS Retrieval Team, to the NICU at The Canberra Hospital. At the NICU Max received life saving attention and appeared to be connected to every machine the hospital owned!

Being thrown into the NICU world is something that a parent cannot describe to someone who has not experienced it. A world of angels, working tirelessly to save the lives of the region’s smallest and sickest of babies. Some babies are in just overnight, others for months on end. Max was in the Canberra NICU for 6 weeks until he was classified as ‘Grandpa Max’ and transferred with the ‘big kids’ to the Paediatrics ward. He stayed there for a further week and half.”

Having been in the NICU for six weeks, as parents we realized that there is much that could be done for the new NICU being built as part of the Women and Children’s hospital…”

Peter Cursley

Peter Cursley, Chairman of the Newborn Intensive Care Foundation (NICF) looking at one of the rooms the Rotary Club of Hall chose to sponsor

Our Community Director, Chris Edwards contacted Peter Cursley, Chairman of the Newborn Intensive Care Foundation (NICF), to find out more information and make a decision about a donation.

Canberra had outgrown the old NICU at Canberra Hospital now with more than 2,500 births per year, it is a principal referral centre for high-risk pregnancies. It is the only tertiary care neonatal unit in the region, with a delivery population of 8,000 per year.

In response to Annabell’s letter, the Rotary Club of Hall decided to allocate some funding for use in making the new NICU ward more comfortable.

The new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit opened in September 2012 and is very impressive in so many aspects. Not only is it three times the size of the old one, but instead of one large room filled with babies and equipment, with parents, visitors and staff all clambering for space; the new NICU introduces a new level of quietness and privacy, largely a result of the twin room design (two babies per room).

Seating for parents in hallways

No seating is provided for parents or visitors

“Within each room there is a dedicated family space, baby space and nurse space, so we don’t have to chase the parents away to get to the baby. We also have two family rooms where parents can bring their children in for a quite time,” says Zsuzsoka Kecskes – Clinical Director of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“The transition to move home has been made a lot smoother for parents who are trying to establish feeding. There is a larger expressing room for the mothers, plus interview rooms to talk with he parents away from the babies and much better for end of life care,” says Clinical Nurse Consultant of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Alison Moore.
Contrary to popular belief, the government only funds the bare essentials, such as beds, ventilators etc., everything else comes from donations and fundraising.

Chris Edwards

L to R: Alison Moore – Clinical Nurse Consultant NICU, Zsuzsoka Kecskes – Clinical Director NICU, Chris Edwards – Rotary Club of Hall Community Director, sitting on chairs donated for the hallway ends.

The Newborn Intensive Care Foundation raised over 3 million dollars for us over the last 12 years which has been used for everything from staff training to the purchase of equipment such as the retrieval cots, which are mobile intensive units, and baby brain wave machines. The funds raised also paid for the NICU Cam, an International Award Winning service that enables parents and family to watch their babies in hospital from home.

“The donations are critical for providing effective care,” states Zsuzsoka.

The Rotary Club of Hall donation

“Families can be in here for months until their baby is able to go home. A lot of parents get post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and even abuse. Everything we can do to make their time here more comfortable is a big help,” says Alison.

Max 2012

Today, Max is a happy and healthy boy, thanks to the dedication of the team at the Canberra NICU

“The $5,000 of furniture and other equipment purchased by the RCH adds to the comfort of the families and has already helped to give them time out space. Without the to Rotary Club of Hall’s donation, parents and visitors would have been sitting on the window sills, and also with the furniture Hall Rotary supplied in the Quiet Room, will make that terrible situation just that little bit better,” stated Zsuzsoka.

“The whole planning of the new unit has been done very differently. All of the staff were involved in the planning. What is different with this NICU is that we haven’t just built this unit to put babies in, but rather to provide the best care we can give to babies, keeping in mind that we’re dealing with developing brains and we’re very much aware that the parents are part of the deal. They will take them home and care for them.”

Newborn Intensive Care Foundation

Canberra Hospital NICU