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Wirral University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Keeping the smallest patients warm

Wirral University Teaching Hospital has recycled disused heated mattresses from its Neonatal Unit by donating them to help small animals at Chester Zoo.

The baby-sized heated mattresses were no longer suitable for poorly premature babies on the Neonatal Unit at Wirral Women and Children’s Hospital and replacement new equipment was being procured.

However, hospital staff had the bright idea that they could be used for small creatures at the world renowned wildlife charity, Chester Zoo. They contacted conservation experts at the zoo and the mattresses are now being used to keep a wide variety of endangered species warm when they need to be anaesthetised for examinations or operations.

Vicky Hills, Neonatal Ward Manager at Wirral Women and Children’s Hospital, based at Arrowe Park on The Wirral said: “Our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is one of only two units in Cheshire and Merseyside for babies born before 27 weeks. This means we care for some of the most poorly babies. Premature babies can’t regulate their own temperature and it’s vital that they don’t get cold. Laying them on heated mattresses helps to keep them warm while we transfer them from the labour ward to our unit. We were delighted when Chester Zoo said that they could use them for their smallest patients.”

Alison Biggar, Senior Vet Nurse at Chester Zoo said: “We’re ever so grateful to the Wirral University Teaching Hospital for donating the heat mats to us. They’ve already been a huge help in supporting the recovery of several endangered animals, as most species can’t regulate their own body temperature when under anaesthetic.

“We used the mats to help Mamy, a 35-year-old aye-aye who was having some problems eating. Our team performed a dental check and discovered she had an abscess, but after some pain relief and antibiotics, she’s right a rain. Aye-ayes are listed as vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN red list and typically live to around 30, so because of Mamy’s grand age, the mats really helped her during her recovery.   

“The mats have also been used to help other endangered animals, like Frankie, a critically endangered buffy headed capuchin who we needed to give a first health check to. 

“A six-year-old cabot’s tragopan, an endangered bird who had an infection in his eye, also benefited from the mats. The team took a biopsy to ensure he received the correct treatment, and the mats helped him stay warm and not use too much energy during his recovery.”