Masaka. Mothers in both Kyotera and Rakai districts have reason to smile following the launch of the first ever neonatal intensive care units in their area.
One of the two neonatal care units, which caters for premature babies and those born with health complications, has been established at Rakai District hospital and another at Kalisizo Hospital.
Each unit is designed to admit at least eight premature babies at a time.
Dr Yasin Kiyemba, the Rakai Hospital medical superintendent, on Wednesday said the hospital had been facing a big challenge in caring for premature babies and those born with other health complications.
“We have been keeping the babies in the maternity wards with their mothers and many could not survive due to unfavourable conditions in the maternity ward,” Dr Kiyemba said during an interview on Wednesday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines prematurity as babies born before 37 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period. Experts say a normal baby should spend 40 weeks in the womb.
Records at Rakai hospital indicate that last year alone ,they registered at least 5,000 preterm babies but they could not handle them due to lack of a specialised unit.
Last month, Dr Kiyemba said they received 11 premature babies and half of the number died while being taken to Masaka Regional Referral Hospital.
“We have been referring them to bigger hospitals like Masaka Regional Hospital and Kitovu Hospital,” he added
He applauded Masaka Regional Referral Hospital authorities for helping them train health workers to operate the new equipment at the unit.
“Three of our doctors and two midwives have already received special training and these are the ones who will train others how to run the unit,” Dr Kiyemba said.
Mr Richard Bantubalamu, the Kalisizo Hospital administrator, said the hospital been referring more 10 babies per month to Kitovu hospital.
“Getting a special unit for premature babies is a big relief to us. There is no doubt that this unit will go a long way in saving lives of new-born babies,” he said.
Both facilities have been established by Brick by Brick Uganda through its Babies and Mothers Alive programme (BAMA).
Brick by Brick Uganda is a local non-governmental organisation focusing on improving health and education standards in Rakai and Kyotera Districts.
Ms Helen Nakintu, the coordinator of Brick by Brick Uganda, said they have always received calls from hospital administrators about the need for neonatal units.
“The units have been equipped with state-of-the -art machines and we are optimistic that they will help address the challenge of referring mothers to regional hospitals,” Ms Nakintu said. She appealed to management of the two hospitals to make proper use of the facilities.
Ms Nakintu said through BAMA programme, they have also been able to train at least 30 mentor midwives to ensure that the quality of care provided at various levels of health facilities in both districts, improve.
The BAMA Programme is a vital partnership with Ministry of Health aimed at dramatically reducing maternal and new-born mortality and morbidity in the Rakai and Kyotera.
Ms Agnes Namukasa, a care giver at Rakai hospital, said it has always been so expensive for mothers to seek neonatal services since they had to incur transport costs and upkeep among others costs.
“I am glad to hear that children born prematurely can now receive special care at our hospital,” she said.
Uganda is ranked among countries with a high number of premature babies, resting in the 13th position out of the 184 countries, which strains the country’s health budget. Statistics from the Health ministry show that 38 per cent of the 39,000 deaths occurring in the babies’ first 28 days are due to premature births. This is because premature babies’ lungs are under-developed which causes breathing difficulties among other health problems, medical experts say.