When a baby requires specialized care after birth, they will often be transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). A baby may need to stay in the NICU for a number of reasons, including a premature birth or complications during or after labour and delivery.
The cost of a NICU stay can be significant, and daunting, with one study finding that the median cost of hospitalization is $20,184. In addition to these hospital costs, many parents struggle to pay for other expenses – such as caretakers for their other kids, meals at the hospital, lost wages for time off, and even gas and parking fees.
Fortunately, there are a number of sources of financial help for a NICU stay, including government programs, nonprofit resources, and even crowdfunding. If a baby’s NICU stay was caused by medical negligence, the proceeds of a lawsuit may also be used to pay for all or part of NICU expenses.
There are a number of nonprofit organizations in Canada that offer financial assistance and other resources for families when their babies are in the NICU. For example, the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation (CPBF) provides peer support, education, and financial assistance to parents of premature babies.
Other nonprofit organizations that may help families pay for a NICU stay include the Ronald McDonald House Canada (RMHC). With locations in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, RMHC offers a place to stay for families whose children are in the hospital. If you need to travel to see or stay with your baby while they are in the NICU, you may be able to take advantage of the RMHC’s services.
Many hospitals in Canada offer discounted parking for parents whose babies are in the NICU. For example, at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, parents in need may request NICU parent parking vouchers. If you have concerns about paying for parking or other hospital-related expenses, you should talk to your NICU social worker about any discount programs available at your hospital.
Beyond the hospital, social workers may be able to help parents and families connect with supports and services that are available in their communities. If your child was born prematurely, you should reach out to a social worker to talk about any financial assistance or other types of assistance that may be available.
In Canada, parents can apply for maternity and parental benefits through Employment Insurance (EI). You can apply for EI online as soon as you stop working. You can also obtain EI benefits if you are self-employed.
In addition, you may qualify for caregiving benefits through the EI program if you need coverage beyond parental benefits for a child who is disabled as a result of a birth injury or other complication. Finally, if your child suffers a severe and prolonged impairment, you may be eligible for the child disability benefit, a monthly tax-free payment. (https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/child-family-benefits/child-disability-benefit.html)
Many regional governments provide other forms of assistance for families of babies in the NICU. In British Columbia, for example, the BC Family Residence Program offers accommodation subsidies for families whose children are receiving medical care at BC Children’s Hospital or Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children. The BC government also maintains a list of hotels that offer discounted accommodations for families whose children are receiving medical care. Regional governments may also offer transportation assistance, particularly for families coming from rural areas to receive medical care and other forms of support.
Depending on how far away you live from the hospital, you may also be able to deduct certain expenses from your taxes. Be sure to save all receipts from your hospital stay, and then talk to an accountant about whether you can deduct some or all of these costs.
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If you are struggling to pay for a NICU stay, another option may be to set up a crowdfunding campaign through a website like GoFundMe. While it is less common for Canadians to crowdfund medical expenses than it is for Americans, it is still a viable option if you have outstanding medical bills or other costs associated with a NICU stay.
Setting up a crowdfunding campaign is relatively simple. You’ll need to come up with an interesting title, write a short story about why you are raising funds, add photos, and pick a goal. From there, you can share your fundraiser over social media, email, and text. When you receive donations, be sure to thank your supporters.
Similarly, your community may be able to support you in other ways – such as a meal train. Sites like www.mealtrain.com give your friends and family a way to organize meals for your family when you are unable to grocery shop and cook. Loved ones can sign up to drop off meals for you, have meals delivered, or even send you DoorDash or Uber gift cards that you can use to order take-out meals.
There are many reasons why a baby may be transferred to the NICU. If your baby has suffered a birth injury that led to a NICU stay, then you may be able to file a medical negligence lawsuit against the responsible healthcare provider(s). Medical negligence happens when a doctor, nurse, or other provider fails to follow the standard of care for their profession, resulting in harm to a patient.
Through a birth injury lawsuit, you may recover financial compensation for your losses. Depending on the specific facts of your case, this may include compensation for the cost of future care, loss of income or earning capacity, pain and suffering, and out-of-pocket expenses. If your insurance did not cover all or part of your child’s NICU stay, then the proceeds from a lawsuit may reimburse you for these expenses.
Help for Families Whose Babies Suffered a Birth Injury
In some cases, a NICU stay is brought about by medical negligence. If your baby’s birth injury was caused by medical negligence, you might be eligible for financial compensation.
An experienced birth injury lawyer can evaluate your case and determine if you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault medical provider. Contact BILA today at 1-800-300-BILA or via our online contact form for more information about a potential legal claim and to discuss your child’s birth injury case.
Susanne Raab is a lawyer at Pacific Medical Law, and an advocate for people living with disabilities. She has been selected for inclusion by her peers in Best Lawyers in Canada in the area of Medical Negligence and is recognized as a leading practitioner in the Canadian Legal Lexpert® Directory in medical malpractice. Susanne is also a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, an honorary trial lawyer society whose membership is limited to less than one-half of one percent of North American lawyers, judges and scholars.