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Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals Introduces Kangaroo Mother Care Unit

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals has set up an immediate kangaroo mother care (IKMC) unit and pediatric theatre, a groundbreaking development expected to bring about a considerable reduction in infant mortality rates.

During a media tour at the referral hospital yesterday, Dr. Alex Stevenson, a neonatologist and one of the experts leading the initiative, highlighted the challenges they faced with traditional incubators.

“The incubators are expensive, and we would mostly acquire them second-hand, leading to difficulties such as running out of spare parts. As a result, we often encountered complications like babies getting cold, and the mortality rate of our infants would increase significantly during winter. The nurses were always requesting more incubators,” he said

Dr. Stevenson expressed his optimism regarding the new innovations, stating that they would be implemented in other regions of the country.

“We have plans to extend it to Sally Mugabe Central Hospital and other areas in the future. We have an amazing team across the board of nurses, lactation specialists, doctors, administration, and parents’ representatives. We are trying to achieve a revolution in our culture of the way we deliver care. We want to have an area that we are proud of, that is excellent and world-class, where we can never make an excuse that a baby died because we didn’t have this or that,” he added.

The collaboration between specialists in Zimbabwe and their counterparts in India, where the largest IKMC unit was established, has played a vital role in the development of this innovative care unit. Dr. Stevenson emphasized that the unit’s implementation would not only reduce infant mortality but also promote baby-mother bonding, leading to psychological benefits and improved intellectual outcomes for the baby.

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The kangaroo care unit represents a novel approach to intensive care, providing accommodation for both mother and baby. Instead of immediately placing a newborn preterm baby in an incubator after delivery, the infant will be placed on the mother’s chest, facilitating essential treatments such as ventilation, antibiotics, and intravenous fluids.

Furthermore, the infants will remain in the delivery suite for an hour, allowing obstetricians and midwives to monitor the mother for any potential bleeding. Once satisfied with the mother’s condition, she and the baby will be transferred to the neonatal unit, where the baby will continue to stay on the mother’s chest for at least 18 hours.

This new innovation deviates from the traditional method, which involved placing preterm babies in incubators until they weighed at least 1,300 grams before introducing kangaroo care. However, due to the high risk of mortality within the first 48 hours for preterm infants, they often missed the opportunity to benefit from kangaroo mother care.

In addition to its potential to save lives, the IKMC unit offers cost-effectiveness, reducing neonatal mortality rates and infections, while also promoting breastfeeding.

With a single incubator costing between US$40,000 and US$50,000, the implementation of the IKMC unit is expected to provide a more affordable alternative.

“So, here’s my Christian and I have my Christian’s consent to share her story, because in fact we can tell the whole story in just those microcosms here. Christian was born at 28 weeks. Remember, normal gestation is 40 weeks, so that’s three months early, and his birth weight was 1080 grams. For those of you who don’t know, normal would be around 3,000.

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“So you have a tiny baby. And what the innovation here is, as soon as Christian was born, within seconds before the umbilical cord is cut, he goes onto his mother’s chest, he gets this special respiratory support that’s called CPAP on his mother’s chest, the cord is clamped later, and they come up here together, mom and baby, we don’t separate them with baby in the incubator and mom somewhere else, and we’re 14 days in and Christian is thriving,” Dr Stevenson said.

Shupikai Chari, a mother of a premature baby and a parent shared her experience of the IKMC unit.

“I had many fears, of course, of passing infections onto her, but with encouragement from the hospital team, I eventually felt I was at the safest place for my baby to grow. It’s been 14 days and l can see the progress,” she said.

The introduction of the IKMC unit at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals marks a significant milestone in Zimbabwe’s healthcare system, with the potential to save countless young lives and foster stronger bonds between mothers and their newborns.

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