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Parental visiting in neonatal units
  1. NICU, 2nd Department of Paediatrics
  2. University of Athens
  3. Aglaia Kyriakou Children's Hospital
  4. 115 27 Athens, Greece

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Editor—We read with interest the paper by Cuttini et al.1Although policy on parental visiting is an easier issue to evaluate, parental participation in decision making, particularly in decisions with strong ethical overtones, is much more complex. It is difficult to evaluate with accuracy, and by its nature is much more controversial. The paper does not stress that data collected from each participating unit, through a structured questionnaire completed by the unit coordinator, represent policies—that is, the intention and stance of each unit towards the particular issue for evaluation. Data collected through questionnaires and interviews involving both unit staff and parents would have provided a better understanding of the actual practice of each participating unit.

No unit from Greece took part in the study by Cuttiniet al,1 but Greece is briefly mentioned in the Discussion, using results from a previous study,2 in which, in a sample of 38 units from 11 European countries, it was shown that the nine units that imposed visiting restrictions were in France, Greece, Italy, and Portugal.

We would like to provide further information on visiting policy in Greek neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). There are 15, two of which are private; 12 are attached to maternity hospitals and the remaining three are in children's hospitals and accept distant referrals. In all but one (Aglaia Kyriakou Children's Hospital), visiting restrictions are imposed. These allow parents only, and the usual practice is 30 minutes to one hour visiting time in the morning and afternoon (except for lactating mothers). The most common reasons given for imposing restrictions are increased danger of infection and a disruptive effect on the unit.

We conducted a survey, through questionnaire and interview, of parents with a baby who had been cared for in another NICU that imposed visiting restrictions before it was transferred to our NICU and/or parents who had had a previous baby in another NICU that imposed restrictions. The overwhelming majority (98.6%) said that they preferred our liberal policy on visiting. One mother of a preterm baby with bronchopulmonary dysplasia said that “if I had delivered at term I would be with my baby; if I had not delivered prematurely I would also be with my baby (in my womb); now that I have delivered prematurely why can't I be with my baby?”

We conclude that in Greece there is a demand for unrestricted parental visiting, but most Greek NICUs do not meet this demand for reasons not based on medical or sociological evidence.

It is worth noting that, in Greece, infants beyond the neonatal period have been admitted to children's wards with their mothers for many years.


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