The recently born state of Telangana is grappling to save its newborns, with 1,400 prematurityrelated deaths reported in the state between January-October 2016, including three in Hyderabad, according to the latest UNICEF data. 54% of these deaths, reported across 21 special newborn care units (SNCUs), took place due to respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) – a condition seen in newborns born below 2 kgs with defective lungs. What is further alarming is that the in fant deaths in the state caused due to RDS during this period is way ahead of the national average, which stands at 35%.
In all, more than 700 infant deaths have been singled out to RDS across all the SNCUs with majority of them being reported from the state run Niloufer hospital, Gandhi and MGM hospital at Warangal.Defined as newborns delivered before 37 weeks of pregnancy, prematurity-related deaths were discussed as part of a paper presented at a symposium on `Saving the pre-term newborn’. It was organised by UNICEF to mark the World Prematurity Day on Thursday.
“It has been seen that deaths due to sepsis (infection) is higher in North Indian states but when it comes to South Indian states, pre-term birth related complications has been the leading cause of infant deaths,” explained Dr Sanjeev Upadhyaya, health specialist, UNICEF. In fact, the performance of Telangana state was behind the national average even in birth asphyxia related deaths in SNCUs, which stood at 22% when compared to 20% at the national level.
While experts are unani mous on ways to prevent RDS deaths – which includes giving antenatal steroids, continuous positive airway pressure (a treatment that uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open) and using surfactant, a substance that keeps the tiny air sacs in the lungs open, the SNCUs were found to be lacking in all of these. “Infants diagnosed with RDS related problems find difficulties in breathing. They need to be provided timely newborn resuscitation care,” said Dr Dinesh Chirla, director, Newborn Intensive Care Services, Rainbow Children’s hospital, Hyderabad.
Similarly , for preventing sepsis (infection) related deaths – the second leading cause of deaths in SNCUs experts recommended providing antibiotics, clean labor rooms, breastfeeding and Kangaroo Mother Care to cut down deaths.However, Dr B Balram, retired head, department of paediatrics at Kakatiya Medical College, advocated more number of accredited hospitals from National Neonatology Forum, an organisation of paediatricians promoting advance newborn health that gives quality certification to hospitals.In an innovative way to mark World Prematurity Day on Thursday, the city-based Rainbow hospital brought together 445 pre-term born babies (those born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) under one roof. The feat is said to have broken the existing Guinness World Record set in 2012 with 386 pre-term babies at one place.Meanwhile, important landmarks including the historic Charminar, Niloufer Hospital and Buddha statue were illuminated in the colour purple, which stands for raising awareness on prematurity and its complications.