Extra nurses and doctors were on duty to help shift vulnerable newborn babies as part of a major relocation of services at Middlemore Hospital.

Fifteen prematurely born babies receiving intensive care had to be shifted into the South Auckland hospital's new Neonatal Centre yesterday, in a move that was months in the planning.

Marlene Stratton, the manager of the Kidz First paediatric wards and women's inpatient services, said it took around 50 minutes to shift each baby.

She said one of the Neonatal Centre's best features was its Giraffe brand beds for babies. They could be "docked" on to a "shuttle" to make for easier relocation of a baby with oxygen, suction and other medical services, all part of the high-tech, two-part unit on wheels.


"What we planned was that every baby would have one of these but our order was a bit late coming through and we only have five, so we've had to keep putting babies from their usual bed on to ... a Giraffe [for the shift], then wash the Giraffe to take the next baby." Ms Stratton said the shift posed risks for such vulnerable patients. "There's always a risk because their oxygen saturations can drop, they can crash. Because we make sure they are absolutely stable before we move them we reduce the risk right down and we've certainly had no issues."

Five other babies were shifted on Saturday into temporary accommodation in Kidz First. The section of the Neonatal Centre for the special care unit - for babies who need fewer interventions than intensive-care babies - will not be ready until May. The Neonatal Centre will have capacity for 38 intensive-care and special-care babies, an increase of two.

There will be a progressive decommissioning of 11 old operating theatres and the start-up of 13 new ones, and the relocation of the department that cleans and sterilises instruments.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Wilbur Farmilo said the "logistics are so huge" at Middlemore that elective surgery had been shut down for several days.

The new facilities, including the completion of the Edmund Hillary Building's second half, have cost $208 million.