Neonatal project sees 50% fewer deaths in a year

There has been a 50% reduction in the number of infant deaths at the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) in the first year of implementation of a Neonatal Intensive Care Services project between the Ministry of Health and Dr Narendra Singh’s Guyana Help the Kids (GHTK) organisation.

A release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) said this was revealed on Tuesday by Dr Singh, founder of GHTK, at a seminar, titled ‘Neonatal network – saving our babies’ held at the Resource Centre of the GPH.

According to Dr Singh, the partnership was developed by the government and GHTK over a year ago, to ensure safer delivery for mothers, healthier childhood for infants and to reduce infant mortality (children under 5 years). Under the project the Ministry of Health is constructing neonatal units outfitted with air conditioning and oxygen, while GHTK is providing the specialised equipment at the five main public hospitals: Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Linden, West Demerara and Suddie; as well as providing specialised paediatric training for health personnel.

Dr. Narendra Singh, Founder of the Guyana Help the Kids, addressing the gathering at the seminar. (Government Information Agency photo)
Dr. Narendra Singh, Founder of the Guyana Help the Kids, addressing the gathering at the seminar. (Government Information Agency photo)

These institutions were chosen after a survey showed that they account for 85% of babies born in the country. The project was piloted in Georgetown and later rolled out to the New Amsterdam and Linden hospitals.

The neonatal units at West Demerara Regional and Suddie hospitals are expected to be functional later this year.

Dr Singh emphasised that while the specialised equipment was necessary, the health personnel’s skills were more important. As a result a key component of the project was the development of a paediatric residency programme through collaboration among several entities to train physicians to become qualified paediatricians.

Dr Clive Bowman and Dr Seepersaud Chatterdeo created history in September 2013 as the first locally trained paediatricians when they wrote the Guyana paediatric residency licencing exams. An additional eight doctors are currently in the paediatric residency programme.

A neonatal nurse training programme was also developed and 11 nurses have graduated from the first batch. Seventeen nurses are currently enrolled in the nurse’s training programme.

According to Dr Singh, the training also has an infection control aspect, delivering multiple lectures and demonstrations.

A retrospective review of log books and charts at GPH had been conducted in 2011 and a data collection system was put in place from January 2012. This data showed a 50% reduction in the number of deaths at the hospital within the period of a year of implementation of the neonatal project.

Additionally, in January 2013, GHTK in collaboration with Dr Lorna Fitzpatrick from the University of Buffalo introduced an oncology programme to treat babies born with leukaemia.

Dr Singh stated that efforts were being made to network the hospitals, so that doctors can consult each other in critical cases where expert opinions are needed.

Emphasis is also being placed on a safe transport system. Transport incubators are now available at the GPH and New Amsterdam neonatal units.

By 2016, when all the units are up and running and there are enough trained professionals to manage the units, the Ministry of Health will take complete ownership of the programme and will be responsible for sustaining the units including purchasing new equipment and continuing the training programmes.

The seminar was attended by Minister of Health Dr Bheri Ramsaran, Director of Regional Health Services Dr Monica Odwin, Chief Executive Officer of the GPHC Michael Khan, several local and international doctors from the public hospitals, other staff of the GPHC and representatives from private sector health institutions.

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