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Giving hope to mothers and newborns - the Sick Newborn Care Unit in Guna

© UNICEF India / 2009
Sick Newborn Care Unit, Guna

Guna,  Madhya Pradesh :  Soni Brijmohan (25), wife of a school teacher delivered twins on March 16 at Mayana Community Health Centre, 35 kms from the district headquarters. Both the babies, a girl and a boy, were born premature, weak and weighed about one kilogram each and had severe lung problems. “My babies were so small, I was frightened to even touch them” Soni recalls.   “My girl died two days after the delivery.  I cried hysterically as an unusual fear gripped me that perhaps I would lose the second baby too.”  Then the nurse at the health centre told her about a new-born baby care hospital at Guna.  Next day, Soni and her sick baby were referred there.

When the paediatrician on duty admitted the baby, Soni’s mother-in-law Ghisi Bai comforted her “This baby will survive. Look at the hospital with all those machines. And the doctors and nurses! Your child is in safe hands.”

To address the high rate of infant mortality in Madhya Pradesh, the state government, with budgetary and technical support from UNICEF, set-up the first Sick New-Born Care Unit (SNCU) inside the premises of the Guna district hospital on December 14, 2007. Madhya Pradesh has the country’s highest infant mortality rate at 72 per 1000 live births. Equipped with state-of the-art specialized medical care facilities, this unit’s work is to save lives of sick new-born babies. Four paediatricians, 12 nurses, two laboratory technicians and six ward boys at Guna SNCU help save an average 100 to 120 new-born lives every month.

Specialised equipment like pulse oxy-meters, infusion pumps, radiant warmers and oxygen concentrators have been provided at this SNCU. A centralized oxygen system with auto generator backup and photo therapy units to treat neo-natal jaundice have also been installed. The medical equipment and civil work cost nearly 50 lakhs and provide a facility that was never available in these areas before.

Coming from a remote rural area, Soni or her family members had not seen a state-of-the-art child care unit before. When the paediatrician on duty admitted the baby, Soni’s mother-in-law Ghisi Bai comforted her “This baby will survive. Look at the hospital with all those machines. And the doctors and nurses! Your child is in safe hands.”

Two weeks later, SNCU pediatrician Dr Prakash Verma was counselling Soni on how to breast-feed and take care of her son after his discharge. “The baby and his deceased twin were born with respiratory distress syndrome coupled with feed intolerance.  After 15 days at the SNCU, he seems to have overcome both these problems.  Now he is breathing on his own and accepting feed.  This baby is going home” Dr Verma explained. “However, we will not discharge him till we have given proper counselling as there has hardly been any direct contact between the mother and baby” he adds.

Soni patiently waits for the evening. Because her baby is undergoing treatment at the SNCU, she has been admitted in the adjoining maternity ward in the hospital.  “I am permitted to see my baby once during the evening. My husband and mother-in-law come visiting and we keep debating a suitable name for the baby. I will take my boy home very soon.  The doctors and nurses at the unit have taken better care of my child than even I or my husband could.  I wish I had brought both the babies to the SNCU right after delivery.  Maybe, my daughter would also have survived.” she sighs

Not just for Soni; for many mothers the SNCU means hope, a blessing and a fresh lease of life for their sick new-borns.  Sharda Sharma of Ditalwada village gave birth to a male baby at the Raghgarh Community Health Centre on March 28.  But he turned blue right after birth. Doctors explained it was a case of obstructed delivery resulting in haematoma or collection of blood in the head and face. Added to this Sharda’s baby had neo-natal jaundice.  Sharda, who had lost her first born two years ago, was devastated that her second child was born ill.  She rushed her new-born to the Guna SNCU where he was put under photo-therapy. A week later, the baby started accepting feed.

“I was not aware of such a facility being available.  This is such a lovely hospital for new-borns,’’ says Sharda. “I am grateful that my baby was admitted and treated here.  Everyone said he wouldn’t survive. Now the doctor says he will go home with me after another ten days.”  The SNCU at Guna District Hospital has treated nearly 2200 sick new-borns since its inception out of which 86.1 per cent newborns survived, majority of these would have otherwise succumbed to death, says Dr. Gagan Gupta, Health Specialist from UNICEF.

Following the Guna success story, UNICEF extended technical support to the state government to scale up the approach in 17 more districts of the state.  Eight of these units have been completed and started operating in the districts of Shivpuri, Gwalior, Mandsaur, Ratlam, Sehore, Satna and Bhind.  Each unit has a capacity to save 1,200 to 1,500 sick new born annually.   Construction work is in progress in nine more districts.   These units will start operating by end of this year. Through this intervention, the state will be saving the lives of about 75,000 new borns per year says Dr. Hamid El-Bashir, UNICEF  State Representative.



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