Special Care Baby Unit at Kalubowila
The Sunday Observer spoke to the Director of the Colombo South (Kalubowila)
Teaching Hospital, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, in lieu of the opening of the
neo-natal unit yesterday.
Dr. Anil Jasinghe
Q: Describe the Special Care Baby Unit at the hospital and its
A: There are two other terms that can be used to refer to the
Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) namely, NICU (Neo-Natal Intensive Care
Unit) and Premature Baby Unit. Although they are two different names,
the functions of them are same.
The benefit of having two units at the Colombo South Teaching
hospital is that one unit is used as the main unit and the other as a
backup. The reason for having two Special Care Baby units is that we
deliver a large number of babies (800 babies) every month being a
The purpose of the Unit is to save the lives of neo-natal babies by
keeping premature babies in incubators, and ensuring that prompt
treatment is given if they contract any diseases and also closely
monitor their progress until they are cured.
Q: What can be said about the nature of the neo-natal babies who
don’t survive after their birth?
A: The crux of the matter is that
anything can happen to neo-natal babies after birth even with the
state-of-the-art facilities given at the Hospital.
No matter what we do, we can’t control everything that happens to a
neo-natal baby after they are born. Inevitably there are neo-natal
deaths that can occur especially when the baby is born in the 30th week
of pregnancy or there are complications at birth.
Usually a baby takes about 38 weeks to fully develop and this means
developing their immune systems as well.
So when pre-term occurs, these neo-nates are susceptible to external
factors such as temperature changes, micro-organisms and other external
Q: What does the staff at the Hospital do when such a neo-natal baby
A: Firstly, premature babies are put to the Special Care Baby Unit
because they are susceptible to temperature changes.
At present we are in the state of catering to the current demand. We
should also note that germs can be passed not only from the external
environmental factors but also through staff and also from the mothers
when they feed their babies.
Therefore, it is impossible to maintain an organism-free environment
at the Neo-natal unit. In fact, neo-natal deaths can occur even at
hospitals in developed countries due to infections.
We are not saying that we expect deaths but it is imperative that
people realise that no matter what we do to save the life of the baby,
we have to accept that there will be a few deaths in the neo-natal unit
due to this fact.
Q: What was the reason behind closing the Unit for a week?
A: Whenever we detect that there is a micro-organism or foreign body
that enters the Unit, it is our standard Hospital procedure to do a
thorough investigation and a cleaning of the unit.
Firstly we notify all hospitals that we are not going to take
admissions to our Hospital and to revert expecting mothers in-utero to
other maternity clinics and hospitals for their deliveries.
Moreover, we also take precautions to see that the neo-natal babies
in the Unit are well-looked after and that there are no complications.
Q: Sri Lanka is one of the best countries in the world for a low
infant and low maternal mortality rate. What can you say about that?
A: Sri Lanka has had these good figures historically. It is true
because due to women being educated, the free health service system and
the good work of the primary health care workers, Sri Lanka has done
well to have low infant and low maternal mortality figures. I believe
that these results will be maintained in the future.
Q: What message will you give the public with regard to neo-natal
health services at the Hospital?
A: Whatever is said in the media
shouldn’t affect the people’s faith in the Sri Lankan health system.
I am confident that once this hype dies down, people will go back to
normal and will entrust us with the task of taking care of deliveries
We shouldn’t worry about the fact surrounding about the quality of
our health system but we should understand that these things happen in
nature and even though we might have a good health system in place, we
should understand the real situation without aggravating and making
This is a matter of life and death and good health decisions will
have a long-lasting effect, so I would advise that people understand an
educate themselves on the real matter without jumping to conclusions.