A new heartbeat: Transforming maternal care in Makeni Government Hospital
Making strides to improve maternal health services
Makeni - At the Makeni Government Hospital, the main regional referral hospital in Sierra Leone’s northern region, a transformation is taking place in maternal healthcare. With thanks to a partnership between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), and with technical support from UNICEF, the introduction of an ultrasound device and other essential medical equipment has ushered in a new era of healthcare service delivery, particularly for women like Aminata Bangura, a 23-year-old first-time expectant mother.
Aminata’s pregnancy journey began like that of many others in her community, with uncertainty and anxiety. She had always heard stories of mothers traveling long distances to access basic quality prenatal services. Her story took a remarkable turn when she stepped into the Makeni Government Hospital for antenatal services. The availability of an ultrasound device, provided with funds from IsDB through UNICEF, meant that she could now get a closer look at the development of her unborn child.
"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw my baby on the screen for the first time," Aminata recalls, her face lighting up with joy. "It was like a miracle. I felt reassured that my baby was growing healthy."
Today, Aminata has been brought in by her partner, Aruna, after she started experiencing labour pains. Aminata’s belly was scanned with the ultrasound device and immediately referred for C-section when midwife Zainab discovered that her labour was not progressing because of some complications. A few hours later, Aminata and her baby came out of the operating theatre safe.
Aminata's story is not unique. Since the ultrasound device and other medical equipment arrived at the hospital, hundreds of expectant mothers have received the same reassuring experiences. The devices are facilitating the early detection of complications, monitoring fetal progress in mother’s womb, and ensuring safe pregnancies and deliveries.
Zainab Koroma, the lead midwife at the hospital's maternity ward, notes the critical role the ultrasound device plays in maternal and fetal healthcare. "We can now identify high-risk pregnancies much earlier and provide the necessary care on time," she explains, "This is helping us to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates."
Dr. Joseph Kamanda Sesay, the Medical Superintendent of the Makeni Government Hospital, emphasizes the importance of this partnership. "Partners’ efforts to complement the government’s strides to provide quality health services to the population, especially to pregnant women, are appreciated,” says Dr. Sesay. “Our hospital being a regional referral hospital makes our caseload high. Having a dedicated ultrasound machine for pregnant women now means they do not have to wait in queues to access this vital service,” he adds.
Thanks to this support, a total of 150 different types of hospital equipment, medicines and medical supplies including 10 brand-new mobile digital X-ray machine units, 10 ultrasound devices, surgical theatre lights and other medicines and medical supplies were provided to health facilities in 10 districts. Oxygen production plants were procured and installed in two regional hospitals in Bo and Kenema. In addition, 28 health workers have been equipped with the skills to operate the equipment and provide enhanced care.
“Our support to Sierra Leone’s health sector is a testament to our commitment to ensuring that all mothers have safer pregnancies and healthier births,” says Vandana Joshi, UNICEF Chief of Health and Nutrition. “Together, we are determined to silence the tragedy of maternal and neonatal mortality in the country,” she adds.
As Sierra Leone continues to strive for improved maternal and child healthcare, the Makeni Government Hospital stands as a beacon of hope. Aminata's journey celebrates the power of collaboration and innovation in healthcare which has allowed mothers like Aminata to witness the heartbeats of their unborn children on a screen. These are the heartbeats of a brighter and healthier future for their families and communities.