Dr. Gillian Bogee, Senior Medical Officer and Head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Upper East Regional Hospital, has raised an alarm over a rising trend of preterm births recorded at the facility.
The unit attends to cases in the Bolgatanga Municipality, parts of the North East and Upper West regions, as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Togo.
According to Dr. Bogee, the unit, which specializes in caring for premature infants, has witnessed a surge in admissions over the past few months.
Dr. Bogee says half of the over 1,000 births recorded at the facility from January to October were preterm babies.
“From January to October, we had a total number of admissions to be 1,152, and out of that number, 530 were low birth weight babies. Out of the 530, we lost 25 of them, and these 25 low birth weight babies that passed away were not on the Kangaroo Mother Care. They were on the ward being managed for other serious medical conditions, and some were also referred from neighbouring facilities with very serious medical conditions,” she disclosed.
She attributed this rise to heightened stress, elevated blood pressure, and anxiety experienced by pregnant women amid the ethnic conflict in Bawku.
“The conflict and the elevation of stress hormones in these women can predispose these women to having preterm delivery. It is not just Bawku; it is in the Upper East region. When they [pregnant women] are in Bawku and the place gets full, the next referral centre is the regional hospital. The conflict, stress, anxiety, and uncertainty can predispose them to having preterm deliveries. We are seeing the rise in preterm deliveries in the Upper East region,” she stated.
Dr. Gillian Bogee, who spoke to Citi News in Bolgatanga, indicated that the impact of the protracted ethnic conflict has made “some of the mothers have low BP, some were not eating well, some undernourished, and these are some of the things that can predispose the mother to have a preterm delivery.”
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the regional hospital, which specializes in caring for premature infants, is a 21-bed capacity with admissions of about 25 to 32 babies a week. Dr. Bogee, who disclosed this, added that the unit has two doctors, “which is woefully inadequate.”
She recommended caring for preterm babies using the Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), a method of carrying infants with skin-to-skin contact.
Dr. Aiden Suntaa Saanwie, Medical Director of the Upper East Regional Hospital, said the hospital's NICU currently has six incubators, which are not enough to cater to the rising number of preterm babies recorded.
Dr. Aiden commended UNICEF, CRS, and BONABOTO-UK for their support in establishing the NICU, stating that the unit needs to be expanded to cater to the increasing number of cases recorded.