A past investigation by The Standard established that mortality rate is higher among premature babies.
The newborns have to be put in incubators until they attain maturity and gain the requisite weight.
Premature babies — those born before attaining 37 weeks — should be kept alone in incubator units.
But because of congestion and overstretched facilities, The Standard at the time found up to five crammed in one unit, exposing them to cross-infections and consequently death.
At the time of the investigation in November last year, there were seven fresh admissions in the neonatal ward where 100 infants were listed as “very sick.”
Three died within 24 hours, but medics we interviewed said it had been a good week considering there was minimal congestion.
“Here the mortality rate is 50 per cent. It is very bad,” a medic said at the time.
Another confided that putting the premature babies in the same incubator raised chances of administering medication to the wrong infant.
Malaria, meningitis, HIV and pulmonary tuberculosis were among the medical conditions the premature newborns had presented.
According to KNH’s director for clinical services at that time, Peter Masinde, the hospital’s facilities were stretched by referrals from lower-level facilities.
Dr Masinde then said that many of the babies’ lives could be saved had the mothers been brought in earlier or managed better before referral.
“We have minimal space but we cannot turn away any mother and their babies who have been referred to us irrespective of their state,” he said, citing cross-infection as the main cause of death.
He then explained that most hospitals that refer the cases to KNH lacked specialised equipment and staff to manage preterm babies.
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First Lady Margaret Kenyatta had, through her Beyond Zero Campaign programme, helped equip the facility’s newborn unit three years ago in response to the high mortality rates which had hit 40 per cent.
Her programme was also intended to slash maternal deaths.
Still, the delivery of tens of new incubators and Intensive Care Unit beds for the unit was not sufficient to entirely ease the problem.
Level Five hospitals around the country have the equipment for keeping premature babies and should typically be where most of the child birth referrals end.
Newborns, specifically those born before attaining 38 weeks, tend to be the most delicate hence susceptible to cross-infections if the conditions they are kept in is less than ideal.
Well-equipped private hospitals widely observe the need to separate the babies to avert such eventualities, but are inadvertently out of reach for the majority poor.
Research by World Health Organisation indicates that women from poorer families are more predisposed to premature births, compounding the problem for needy households.
According to the Health ministry, premature births account for about 13 per cent of all newborns in Kenya.
In addressing the high newborn mortality rates, ensuring that expectant women attend prenatal clinics would significantly slash on complications by picking them out at the earliest opportunity.
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