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Colombia: video calls connect anxious parents to hospitalized newborns

Deysi Silva cannot see, hug or kiss her infant daughter yet.

The baby, born last month at a hospital in Colombia’s capital Bogota amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is hospitalized in a neonatal unit where visits are forbidden to protect the vulnerable children from the possible virus infection.

But family members of newborns in the unit at Kennedy Hospital are speaking to their babies via hundreds of video calls organized by the medical staff.

Image credit The New York Times

“I love you so much daughter, hopefully soon we’ll be together again. You know I love you so much, your dad does too,” 30-year-old Silva, originally from Venezuela, said through tears as she looked at her daughter Deysi Mar Victoria’s image.

Since the program started in mid-May, 143 families have made more than 260 video calls to children in intensive care, Bogota’s health secretary admitted.

Many hospitals around the world have separated newborns from their mothers to prevent the virus constant spread, especially when mothers are suspected of having the disease.

Social workers - who coordinate the calls and hold tablets up to the incubators - are key to this.

“My job during the virtual visits is to connect the mothers to their children via the tablet. I go into the unit and put the infants on the screen so the mom can see them live and talk to and listen to their laughs and their little cries,” said social worker Maria Nubia Arboleda.

Image credit Nationwide Children's

The calls will help parents to bond with their infants despite the physical distance, hospital official Mirella Pena explained.

“In the case of newborns, video calls help strengthen the parents’ bond with their babies,” Pena affirmed, adding that the communication also helps to reassure the worried parents.

Colombia, which is holding a month-long quarantine to try to control and combat the deadly coronavirus infections across the country, has for now nearly 30,500 confirmed cases of the virus and close to 1,000 deaths.


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