Kerugoya General Hospital is celebrating ongoing health sector
reforms at the county that have led to reduced neonatal mortality rates
following refurbishment and equipping of a New Born Unit (NBU).
The deaths of infants have gone down from 22% in 2013 to 8% with medics hailing Governor Anne Waiguru for the notable improvements in medical services.
With the facility treating and discharging about 200 babies every year, Kirinyaga county government aims at reducing all preventable neonatal deaths.
Kerugoya NBU has been refurbished and well equipped with modern equipment, making it the best in the county and part of neighboring counties.
The unit offers specialized neonatal care to ill or premature babies delivered at the hospital or referred from other facilities, offering great relief to mothers who could earlier be referred to Kenyatta Hospital.
The facility that can now accommodate up to 40 babies is equipped with critical facilities such as incubators, CPAP machines, Phototherapy machines, fluid pumps, oxygen splitters, light meters, radiant warmers, oxygen concentrators, sanction and resuscitating machines among others.
The equipment is used for treating and supporting the babies until they attain the right weight to survive on their own.
Governor Anne Waiguru has said that provision of quality healthcare for the county residents has been at the center of her administration’s service delivery. She said that Kerugoya Hospital is poised to be the region’s wellness hub where top-notch medical services will be provided.
She said that the county government is committed to the improvement of child healthcare services to reduce neonatal mortality rates.
The NBU Nurse Manager, Nancy Mburu, said that among the babies admitted at the unit are those born premature, with low birth weight, those born at term but have conditions such as jaundice or infections. Babies recovering from complex surgery are also admitted at the unit.
Pre-term babies are those born before attaining 1,800 grams where they are nurtured until they attain at least 2,500 grams after which they can be further managed by the outpatient pediatric clinic.
Since not many hospitals provide specialist neonatal services, Kerugoya NBU receives many referrals from public and private health facilities in and outside the county.
The nurse says that so far, the facility is the best equipped in the region.
At the unit, some babies can be seen lying on the beautiful modern cots, others in the incubators and others under the phototherapy machine.
This is a machine where babies with severe jaundice are placed a very bright light usually with soft eye pads or special box over their heads to protect their eyes. Others are on breathing machines and feeding tubes and connected to monitors.
Nancy said that since a baby’s immune system isn’t fully developed, the healthcare team plus the mothers observe strict hygiene rules that include washing hands and changing into sanitized shoes when around the unit. All other infection control policies are followed to the book.
She added that at times they have had to admit babies rescued after being abandoned by their parents where they give them the required nursing care or treatment before they are released to children’s homes or other caregivers.
The unit has also incorporated Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) where mothers are taught how to keep their babies warm through body contact and how to breast them after they are weaned off the feeding tubes, before they are discharged from the hospital.
“The transitional care allows mother and child to bond. Sometimes the size of the baby can intimidate their mothers, but we are here to support them and show them how to independently take care of their bundles of joy, which then increases their confidence”, said Nurse Nancy.
The in-charge, who has won the Nurse of the Year Awards thrice, said that the greatest reward for those working at NBU is seeing mothers going home with healthy babies.
Some of the mothers who have benefitted from the unit include, Beatrice Wairimu, a 23 years old mother whose baby was born premature weighing only 660 grams.
Her baby’s weight further dropped to 450 grams marking a long stay at the hospital for mother and child.
The baby has now greatly improved and attained 1700 grams and is learning to suckle on his own. The mother could not hide her joy at the progress, expressing hope that she will soon be released to go home with her son. She is currently at the Kangaroo Mother Care.
“My baby and I have been treated so well at the hospital and nurses here are very kind and committed to walking the journey with us” she said. She was admitted in July, and hers is one of the smallest babies that the unit has successfully nurtured.
Another mother whose baby is admitted at the NBU is Belinda Wanjiru. Her child developed complications at birth and has been undergoing treatment for the past one month.
“When my baby came here she was not responsive but I have seen great improvement and I hope we will soon be going home,” said the mother of two.
The NBU is manned by a healthcare team of one pediatric doctor, two Medical Officers and 10 nurses.
Before the unit was established, babies in need of specialized neonatal care could be referred to Kenyatta National Hospital.
Such referrals were not only expensive but could also cost the life of a baby since critical time could be lost in between the referral process.
The NBU is thus one of the most essential components of the county’s healthcare service, with Governor Waiguru saying that mother and child healthcare is set to get better with the completion of the upcoming Kerugoya Level Five Hospital which has a state-of-the-art maternity wing and NBU.