June 2, 2020 / 6:37 PM / a month ago

Video calls connect anxious parents to hospitalized newborns in Colombia

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Deysi Silva cannot see, hug or kiss her infant daughter.

The child, born last month at a hospital in Colombia’s capital Bogota amid the coronavirus pandemic, is hospitalized in a neo-natal unit where visits are forbidden to protect the vulnerable babies from possible infection.

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

“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 260 video calls to children in intensive care, Bogota’s health secretary said. Hospitals around the world have separated newborns from their mothers in an effort to prevent spreading the virus, especially when mothers are suspected of having the illness.

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

“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 them,” said social worker Maria Nubia Arboleda.

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

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

Colombia, which is holding a months-long quarantine to combat coronavirus infections, has nearly 30,500 confirmed cases of the virus and close to 1,000 deaths.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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