Improved care for premature infants, high-risk pregnant women

Thursday, September 20, 2018

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CONSTRUCTION of High Dependency Units (HDUs) at the Bustamante Hospital for Children, the Cornwall Regional and Victoria Jubilee hospitals will improve the quality of care for premature infants and high-risk pregnant women.

The ceremony to symbolically break ground for the construction of the units was held at the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston on September 12.

These are the final three of five hospitals across Jamaica where the HDUs have been introduced. Ground was recently broken for the construction of HDUs at the St Ann's Bay and Spanish Town hospitals.

The HDU provides an intermediate level of care between that which is available on a general ward and in an Intensive Care Unit.

They are financed under the European Union (EU)-funded Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC). The EU is providing €22 million to fund PROMAC projects, a portion of which is to construct the HDUs.

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton, who delivered the keynote address at the ceremony, said the initiative seeks to alleviate some of the serious challenges associated with pregnancy.

“Motherhood for too many women is about ill health and death. Globally, every one to two minutes a woman somewhere is dying in pregnancy or childbirth. Ninety per cent of those deaths are occurring in developing countries like Jamaica, which clearly shows that we have a huge gap in the developing world and why a lot more needs to be done,” he said.

Citing figures by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, the health minister said that in 2015, the maternal mortality rate was 87.1 per 100,000 live births, and the infant mortality rate was 22.2 per 1,000 live births.

“Given those numbers, the work of the EU-funded PROMAC is absolutely critical, and we thank the EU for working with us on this project. PROMAC was designed expressly to ensure that our Jamaican mothers and children have access to quality care, through infrastructure improvements; capacity building for healthcare workers; the promotion of positive health-seeking behaviours; and enabling civil society advocacy for maternal and child health, thus reducing the level of pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity,” the minister said.

“These HDUs help to afford mothers and newborns with life-threatening injuries and illnesses, including severe infections, the best chance at a positive health outcome,” he added.

Expected outcomes from the HDUs include improved newborn and emergency obstetric care, and improved primary health care services for high-risk pregnant women.

For her part, head of the EU Delegation to Jamaica, Malgorzata Wasilewska, said “it is unacceptable” for women to have limited access to decent health facilities when they are pregnant and go through what is supposed to be one of the most beautiful moments in a couple's life — the delivery of a child.

“We are proud and honoured to support the ambitious plan by the Government of Jamaica to achieve its sustainable development goals and improve the conditions under which women go through pregnancy as well as under which they deliver children,” she said.

The contract for the construction of the HDUs has been awarded to M&M Jamaica Limited, with completion set for next year.

The PROMAC project is managed by the Ministry of Health under the supervision of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, which serves as the National Authorising Officer for the project.

Construction of the HDUs and the training of medical staff fall under the five components of PROMAC. These are Newborn Care and Emergency Obstetric Care, Quality of Primary Healthcare Services and Referral Systems, Health Workers Training and Research, Support to the Health-seeking Behaviours of the Target Population and the Role of Civil Society, and Institutional Support for Programme Implementation .

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