Premature babies given hope by the latest medical equipment

Improving outcomes for premature babies through specialised care

Joy Wanja Muraya
Maureen and her son Lucky
UNICEFKenya/2022/JoyWanja
15 July 2022

This pregnancy was more difficult than her previous two. Maureen Khakali was constantly feeling nauseated, had swollen feet and was fatigued. But it turned out the complications were for a good reason: she was pregnant with twins.

“When we got the news, it explained the problems I was having compared to my other pregnancies, that were very smooth. I had to stop working and focus on ensuring my pregnancy was stress-free,” says Khakali.

Nevertheless, Khakali gave birth to two boys prematurely. The children were underweight and placed in incubators at the intensive care newborn unit at the Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital.

The World Health Organization defines preterm babies as those born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. According to the WHO, more than three out of every four premature babies can be saved with feasible, cost-effective care, such as essential care during childbirth and after birth.

Eileen Muhavi shows the Remote Monitoring Solution
UNICEFKenya/2022/JoyWanja
Eileen Muhavi shows the Remote Monitoring Solution that monitors equipment at Kakamega County Referral and Teaching Hospital

But tragically, one of the twins died a few days after being born. The surviving child, Lucky, remained in intensive care, barely clinging to life, with tubes coming out of his hands and an oxygen mask strapped to his face.

“I cried every day but I also needed to be strong for baby Lucky who was improving and was showing promise,” says Khakal.

Fortunately, Lucky was in good hands at Kakamega County Teaching and Referral hospital, surrounded by expert medical professionals with some of the latest healthcare equipment. In Lucky’s case, he was looked after with a "Remote Monitoring Solution” that tracked his vital signs at all times and had the ability to alert medical staff to any potential problems.

The Remote Monitoring Solution programme is implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Kakamega and Kisumu County health departments and Philips East Africa with funding from Phillips Foundation.

The Remote Monitoring Solution enables facility managers to electronically manage facilities’ equipment inventories and monitor equipment status, wherever they are, at all levels, in a near real-time mode, hence increasing equipment availability, functionality and use.

Baby Lucky with nurse Maureen
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Baby Lucky shares a moment with nurse Maureen who took care of him at the Kakamega County Teaching & Referral newborn unit from birth

One of the achievements is that this programme has provided a centralised system where accessible to the health managers and other users at different levels (depending on the assigned access and user rights). This has enhanced visibility of equipment placement, functionality and use. Biomedical engineers are now able to monitor, identify and install medical equipment and repair turnaround time has reduced due to active maintenance ticket management. This minimizes service interruptions of critical services keeping babies keeping babies like Lucky alive.

Acting Director of Health Kakamega county Dr Linet Elamenya noted that the Remote Monitoring System has enhanced efficiency of health services in health facilities in the county.

“When the medical equipment is working, we are saving more lives every day because this has improved the quality of care by enhancing timely diagnosis and improved management and treatment of health situation,” said Dr. Elamenya.

This is a world class timely solution, she added.

UNICEF Kenya Health Specialist Paul Kisia notes that the partnership has provided a centralised accessible to the health managers and other users, offering enhanced visibility of equipment placement, functionality and use. The partnership is running in about 100 public health facilities in Kakamega and Kisumu counties, and provides a co-created, innovative, technological remote monitoring solution that includes phone and web applications.

“These solutions solutions enable facility managers to electronically manage inventories and equipment status in real-time, increasing equipment availability, functionality and use,” Dr Kisia said. Dr. Kisia said

Dr. Nyumbile Boniface, a pediatrician at the Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital, says having the right equipment has improved outcomes for premature babies and increased the demand for specialized care at the hospital.

Premature babies at the newborn unit
UNICEFKenya/2022/JoyWanja
Premature babies at the newborn unit at the Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital

“Taking care of premature babies demands patience and dedication,” says Dr. Boniface who is also the acting Medical Superintendent at Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital. According to Dr Boniface the biomedical engineers are now able to identify and quickly repair equipment due to active maintenance ticket management.”

“Having the right equipment in the right environment at the right time, greatly improves the chances of survival for the preemie babies,” he concluded.

In the meantime, Lucky is doing well and his mother feels blessed, even though the pain of losing his twin remains with her.

Today Lucky’s mother has let pain transform her into the hero every family need, bringing hope. Her son is her little fighter who has met all the milestones and giving her a reason to appreciate that joy also comes in little packages.

“Lucky is her little fighter who has met all his health milestones and giving me a reason to be joyful.”

Maureen plays with her son
UNICEFKenya/2022/JoyWanja
Maureen plays with her two-year-old son, Lucy at their Kakamega home