Stakeholders at the Ho Teaching Hospital (HTH) have appealed for the expansion of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to meet growing demand for preterm care.
Members of the Paediatric and Child Health Sub BMC of the Hospital, at the launch of the Prematurity Awareness Month, said the top referral facility in the region would need an enhancement of its child health unit as the number of preterm babies in the region rose with population growth.
Ms Gifty Dravie, in charge of the NICU, which was established in 2016 as a 22-bed facility, said pre-terms handled by the unit rose from 207 in 2019 to 338 in 2022.
The Unit presently has 12 cots and 10 incubators and took in babies less than 28-weeks old.
“We need support to enhance technical observation to be able to save babies and reduce mortalities,” Ms Dravie said, considering how premature babies were more prone to diseases.
The mortality rate, however, had reduced from 22 to 19 per cent, with other success stories being the fact that nine babies less than 28-weeks old survived, she said.
Facilities with the highest referral rates to the teaching hospital are also being supported.
Ms Dravie spoke of inadequate staffing at the Unit, where one nurse managed seven babies per distribution, while one doctor cared for all 22 beds.
“Admissions can go up to 35, and the work is tedious. We need to work around the clock to prevent mortalities,” she said.
She said space remained limited at the ward, and “we cannot meet the 1-meter spaces between cots as demanded.”
The facility also has no functional mothers lodge, she said, adding; “We need support to expand the NICU so that we can do more work and come out with good results. We need space for kangaroo care.”
Ms Dravie spoke of financial challenges, noting the cost of services at the NICU sometimes traumatised mothers.
Dr Antionette Akuban, Focal Person for Newborn Care for Volta, said six per cent of the estimated 128,000 preterm babies born in Ghana annually suffered mortality due to direct complications.
She said there was “a steady increase” in the number of preterm deliveries in the Volta Region, which had 13 of its 18 major health facilities having functional NICUs offering kangaroo care.
The greater part of the 8.8 per vent stillbirth rate were preterms, and the strategy was to have all NICUs functional with standard equipment.
DR Akuban spoke about a Newborn Action Plan 2023-2024 that would provide for newborns at risk, detailing how inadequate human resource, lack of basic equipment, and the need for training on newborn management continued to plague the region.
She expressed the hope that the new strategy would help address the issues.
Dr Richard Bright Danyoh, Acting Head of the Sub BMC, appealed to the Government to waive ambulance fees for preterms, and consider the cost of surfactant replacement therapy.
Activities for the month included community engagements and institutional visits.