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Sunday, 18 March 2012

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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 functions.

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 non-maternity hospital.

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 factors.

Q: What does the staff at the Hospital do when such a neo-natal baby is born?

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 and babies.

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 things worse.

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.

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