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ALMC shines in neonatal care in Africa

ALMC shines in neonatal care in Africa

THE Arusha Lutheran Medical Center (ALMC) has become a role model in delivery of quality neonatal care, offering a ray of hope to millions of premature babies in Africa.

Within a five-year stint, the survival rate for premature babies and critically ill newborns in the ALMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has exceeded 92 per cent, the highest ratio ever in history.

Thanks to the incredible feat, ALMC now attracts several local hospitals and African countries that deploy their medical personnel to replicate its best practices, thus raising the country’s profile high as well as complimenting the new government’s policy on medical tourism.

“As a result, over 20 hospitals and clinics started sending us their sickest and smallest babies.

Importantly, this work was being accomplished without the benefit of advanced NICU technologies - mechanical ventilators” Prof Stephen Swanson, the man behind the ALMC’s success story told the three-day International Neonatology Conference held at Gran Melia Hotel in Arusha.

Sharing the best practices at the August conference under the theme, ‘Tiny Feet, Big Steps, Advancing care of critically ill and premature babies’, Prof Swanson said that what they have realised is that equipment does not replace skilled and motivated staff.

“Our heavy investment was made in equipping staff more than purchasing expensive technologies, as we sought to build a NICU and a competent team that can thrive in our African context,” he said, amidst applause from the floor.

He also admitted that the road to success wasn't stress-free as the initial death rate for premature babies was so high – nearly 25 per cent of admitted toddlers went to an early grave.

“Our NICU grew out of duress and necessity. We made plenty of mistakes along the way.

I can recall the NICU was a single room accommodating up to 12 babies, hot, and a sad place to be in…and I did not like rounding in the NICU” he said.

Through collective efforts, Prof. Swanson explained, particularly ALMC’s nurses, who demonstrated they were able to rise above the challenge and change the common narrative that --‘sick babies don't survive’-- the main NICU was founded.

The nurses learned internalized protocols as they wrote them down, and along the long walk they became the foundations of ALMC main NICU, intermediate, and then Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) unit.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT)’s North Central Diocese Bishop, Dr Solomon Masangwa, said they have developed a five years plan to make ALMC an icon in healthcare delivery to complement the government efforts in saving the lives of Tanzanians.

“I’m grateful that neonatal care now becomes among key flagship services we export internationally,” Dr Masangwa noted. Officiating at the Neonatology Conference, the ALMC Chief Executive Officer, Mr Elisha Twisa said his hospital’s NICU team, along with colleagues from the USA, CCBRT, and MUHAS/MNH have prepared this conference to share the best practices in a bid to ease the neonatal mortality rate.

“A child born in Sub-Saharan Africa is ten times more likely to die in the first month of life than a child born in high-income countries,” the ALMC boss said, adding: “Sub-Saharan Africa carries the highest neonatal mortality rate, at 27 deaths per 1000 live births”.

In Tanzania, Mr Twisa observed, the neonatal mortality rate stands at 20.3 per 1000 live births, even higher than the global neonatal mortality rate of 17 deaths per 1000 live births.

“A preterm birth complication is listed as the leading cause of this high mortality rate, and it cuts across all categories of mortality rates in children,” he told the conference.

All told, ALMC chief noted, about a third of newborn deaths could be prevented with simple, feasible, cost-effective interventions, such as essential care during birth -- the golden minute and in the post-natal period --timely assessment and proper interventions, adequate and proper feeding, and temperature regulation.

The conference attracted participants from different countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Malawi, Ethiopia, and the hosting country Tanzania with 47 participating hospitals.

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Author: DAILYNEWS Reporter

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