India is among the top 10 countries with maximum neonatal death, said Dr Ruchi Nanavati, Head, Neonatology, King Edward Memorial. The country needs to equip under-experienced Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) staff and get better transportation facilities for premature babies to tackle the problem of infant mortality rate, she said. She was speaking at the inauguration of a 16-bed NICU at Apollo Hospitals in Belapur, after the load on its previous eight-bed unit had increased. In India 27 million babies are born every year which is almost 20 percent of the global births, she said. “Of them, 8 million babies are born with low birth weight less than 2500 grams every year. Our country contributes to 40 percent of the low birth weight babies of the world. And 3.6 million babies here are born pre-term i.e. 24 percent of the global number.” In 1990, about 1.3 million neonatal deaths occurred in India, which has now come down to 0.76 million due to the increase of NICUs, but the figure is still huge. “Prematurity is the biggest cause of neonatal deaths which contributes to 35 percent of total neonatal deaths. Infections often affect low birth weight babies which contributes to about 15 percent of neonatal deaths,” said Nanavati.
In 2017, Apollo had 130 NICU cases, while in the first six months of 2018 there were 160 leading them to plan the advanced NICU. Dr Omprakash Jamadar, Consultant, Pediatrics and Neonatology, Apollo Hospitals, said, “We have closed down the earlier one on the second floor and opened a 16-bed NICU on the fourth floor. The advanced NICU is parent-friendly. Usually, fathers are not allowed inside, but the new set-up encourages both parents to be present from day one. It also has a special area to care for new-borns with complications requiring intensive medical attention. Out of the 16 beds, eight have individual cubicles allowing parents private time with their babies. Neonatologists, paediatricians, specialised NICU nursing staff, and a multi-disciplinary team of specialists including cardiologists, infectious disease specialists and endocrinologists will be present at all times at the NICU.” The NICU will encourage Kangaroo Father Care in the same way as Kangaroo Mother Care. A human-milk bank will also be set up.
“In a survey it was revealed that 53 percent of NICU nurses in our country have less than three years of experience, which is alarming. An NICU nurse needs at least two years of training to be able to handle a premature or low birth weight baby. Another factor where our country still needs to develop is transportation of premature and low birth weight babies. It is a sight that would make anyone cry,” Dr Nanavati said. Dr Armida Fernandez, neonatologist and ex Dean, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital and Medical College, Mumbai, said, “Fifty years back, there was no concept of NICU due to which it was difficult to handle infant complications. Even now, many hospitals lack NICU facilities. A mother is most important for a baby and a NICU allowing the touch of mother is a very important aspect.” – The Hindu