As the world marked World Prematurity Day, which is usually celebrated on November 17, the spotlight is on the AngloGold Ashanti Health Foundation's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit dubbed ‘the game changer in the treatment of children born preterm’.
Preterm babies are babies delivered before the 37th week of pregnancy. Such babies have low birth weight, difficulty regulating their body temperatures, and feeding and breathing (respiratory) challenges. They also stand the risk of infections, hence require specialized care in the early stages of their lives.
Such newborn babies often require a special area of the hospital called Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to receive specialized care to overcome the various complications they stand to face. The NICU has advanced technology and trained healthcare professionals to give special care to the tiniest of patients. NICUs may also care for babies who are not as sick but do need specialized nursing care.
Commissioned in 2022, the AGAHF's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has provided the needed hope of survival to hundreds of preterm babies born in Obuasi and its environs.
According to Dr. Kwadwo Anim, Executive Director of AGA Health Foundation, at a durbar to mark World Prematurity Day at the hospital, children born preterm at the hospital who hitherto were referred to Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and other bigger health facilities beyond Obuasi, have since reduced over 90%. He said in his speech that this was a source of worry for the hospital and parents.
The hospital he said, stepped up efforts to establish a well-equipped state-of-the-art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit which has provided treatment to preterm babies since its commissioning last year. Beyond the reduction in referrals, the facility has helped reduce the burden of institutions like Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital by receiving referrals from other sister facilities in the Adansi enclave and beyond who hitherto were referring to Kumasi.
Touching on the theme for this year's World Prematurity Day "Small actions, Big Impact", Dr. Anim said it lends credence to the success story chalked by the hospital in successfully treating children born before the required delivery period. "The small actions in his own words refers to the roles played by the parents and health workers in the treatment and survival of preterm babies at the hospital”.
Giving accounts of the impact of the NICU in the treatment of preterm babies, Dr. Enoch Addo Sarkodie, Pediatrician at AGAHF, said last year the Unit successfully managed 107 preterm babies while 200 premature babies have been treated this year alone.
He said because of the delicate nature of treating such children, there is the need to have a well-equipped NICU as well as trained and qualified health workers to provide the needed care. He added that with the addition of new equipment through the collaboration between the parent company AngloGold Ashanti Ghana Limited and GIZ, the Unit has been able to successfully care for premature babies with very low birth weight and severe complications. " This is what the AGAHF NICU which is the first of its kind in Obuasi provides you. We have 14 cots, 3 incubators, 2 CPAP ventilators which were procured this year and other complimentary equipment. So we hardly refer preterm babies these days".
Dr. Sarkodie further revealed that the Hospital in its quest to offer comprehensive care for such patients has also established a prematurity clinic where follow-ups are done to ascertain that preterm babies do not develop any long-term health challenges.
During the event, parents of preterm babies shared their experiences of taking care of their preterm babies and expressed gratitude to the health staff at the AGAHF's NICU for their care and dedication, which helped to ensure that their children remained healthy.