Monday, July 25, 2016

Training equipped doctors to save babies’ lives

Dr.Nazario Barreto dos Santos examining the health of a baby in the hospital.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2016/adocarmo
It was midday, when Simplicio Pereira and Nazaria de Jesus rushed to the hospital with their newborn baby as she was suffering from breathing complications. Both parents were nervous and worried. The way to the hospital from Maucatar sub-district seemed too long to the parents though it was only 10 minutes’ drive by motorbike. The new born baby’s lips had turned dark blue, and the baby was struggling to breathe on her mother’s lap. 

Dr. Nazario Barreto dos Santos (34), is a general practitioner, who was on duty, immediately ensured that the new born girl got emergency treatment as the parents reached the hospital. “The baby was suffering from hypothermia and asphyxia. Without wasting anytime, I performed standard operational procedures that I learnt from my recent Essential Newborn Care and Managing Newborn Problems training, and the baby’s life was saved,” said Dr. Nazario.


Counselling for parents and care givers
“We were very happy when the baby was born, and she looked so healthy. As per local custom, my mother gave her a bath and fed her with sugarwater to welcome her into the family about an hour after of her birth, yet almost immediately after that the baby turned blue,” said Nazaria de Jesus (37), the mother of the girl who got named Fania. 

“I ran to Filomena Pereira, the midwife, who had just assisted my wife during the delivery at home. She advised me to shift the baby urgently to the Suai Referral Hospital,” said Simplicio Pereira, the father of Fania. 

However not every child is as fortunate like baby Fania. As per the latest official figure available, the neonatal mortality rate is still high, 22 neonatal die in every 1000 life birth in Timor-Leste. For  2015, the national data indicate that 41 per cent of the mothers had obstructed labour in the country (covering only health facilities),  while  in Suai hospital 69 per cent obstructed labour cases (HMIS, 2015) were reported, among them 3 per cent of newborn were suffering from asphyxia (Suai Hospital Report, 2015).

“Before discharging baby Fania from the hospital, we organised a counselling session with the parents and the grandmother on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and care for the newborn at home. This includes not giving sugarwater to the baby, and ensure to delay the bathing of the newborn,” said Dr. Nazario, while adding: “These days we routinely ensure counselling for parents on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, newborn danger signs,  when to seek care at the hospital, and on immunisation.”
Baby Fania comfortably sleeping on her mother’s lap after returning home.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2016/adocarmo
Building capacity of doctors
Suai Referral Hospital is the only one hospital in Suai Vila sub-district of Covalima district (called municipality in Timor-Leste) and one of the busiest hospitals in the entire district. The hospital is equipped with 24 beds without any children’s ward or a neonatal specialist. Dr. Nazario has been working in this hospital since 2013. He is one of the 13 medical doctors in the country who have received this training and is now working as a master trainer on the Essential Newborn Care, Managing Newborn Problems and Caring for the Newborn at Home at the Dili National Hospital. Dr. Nazario is currently supporting the National Institute of Health to roll out the training on newborn care as a “master trainer” in Ainaro and Ermera districts including other parts of the country. The training is being implemented by the Ministry of Health in partnership with UNICEF involving valuable financial support by the Japan Committee for UNICEF.

“Fania is one of the many cases that I have successfully managed.  In places where there are no neonatologists yet, this important training on Essential Newborn Care, Managing Newborn Problem and Caring for the Newborn gives doctors more confidence to deal technically with cases like this one of baby Fania, and it helps to save many lives,” said Dr. Nazario.


By Dr.Carla Quintao, Health Officer and Aderito do Carmo, Immunization Officer

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