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Local maternity clinic maintains a 0% newborn mortality rate despite staff shortages

Although newborn deaths are quite high from a global perspective, Eluthandweni managed to maintain a 0% newborn mortality rate. Picture by MART PRODUCTION/Pexels

Although newborn deaths are quite high from a global perspective, Eluthandweni managed to maintain a 0% newborn mortality rate. Picture by MART PRODUCTION/Pexels

Published Dec 19, 2022

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The World Health Organization estimates that 6 700 newborn deaths are reported every day.

According to the World Health Organization, 2.4 million children worldwide died in their first month of life in 2020.

Although the WHO acknowledges this, the drop in neonatal mortality from 1990 to 2020 was slower than the decline in post-neonatal under-5 mortality.

Where a child is born determines their chances of survival in every way; in 2020, Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest infant mortality rate, with 27-32 deaths per 1 000 live births.

Several factors contribute to the staggering statistical outcome, including a lack of excellent antenatal care, skilled care at birth, and postnatal care for mother and baby.

However, the availability of resources, skilled labours, and treatment for infants can significantly increase infant survival and health, and reduce stillbirths.

Although newborn deaths are quite high from a global perspective, Eluthandweni manages to maintain a 0% newborn mortality rate. There are more than 200 000 residents in the Vosloorus Township community served by Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital.

The Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital only has one maternity unit but delivers 900 babies every month which poses multiple challenges for the women of Vosloorus.

Having one ward cannot accommodate all of Vosloorus’ births. Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital CEO Michael Malaka stated in October that the hospital requires over 600 more healthcare professionals to function properly.

To close the gap and provide support to pregnant women in Vosloorus and surrounding areas, Eluthandweni Maternity Health Services was established.

Although newborn deaths are quite high from a global perspective, Eluthandweni managed to maintain a 0% newborn mortality rate. Picture by MART PRODUCTION/Pexels

Founder and owner of Eluthandweni, Sister Nonina Diphoko, says Eluthandweni initially started as a birthing clinic but has since evolved. “We now offer a wide variety of services such as prenatal care, family planning and child immunisation with a fully equipped and functional clinic assisting thousands of women on their birthing journeys.

“We provide mother and child health services. We support the mother from the moment she finds out she’s pregnant to when she gives birth.

We are open 24 hours, seven days a week, and we don’t have any holidays. We want people to fetch their medication at a time convenient to them so that they are not absent from their work,” said Sr Diphoko.

The clinic not only boasts a stellar delivery record but also prides itself in delivering babies through vaginal birth in a country with an unfortunately high Caesarean section rate, she said.

Research suggests that one in four babies in the public sector is birthed via Caesarean section and seven in 10 babies are birthed via Caesarean section in the private sector.

While a Caesarean section can be an essential and life-saving surgery, it can put women and babies at unnecessary risk of short- and long-term health problems if performed when there is no medical need.

Despite the high Caesarean section rates, Eluthandweni strongly supports assisting mothers in giving birth to healthy infants via vaginal birth.

Sr Diphoko emphasises that Eluthandweni works hard to ensure that its patients are as comfortable as possible. She adds, "Our doulas make sure the patients are completely prepared and are aware of what to expect during the birth.

“If there are complications with the pregnancy, Caesarean sections are a safe option for both mother and baby,” said Sr Diphoko.

However, there may be unfavourable outcomes if Caesarean sections are carried out to escape the discomfort of vaginal birth. Caesarean sections are considerably more expensive because they call for more medical specialists and medications.

The clinic's founder, Sr Diphoko, acknowledges that this environment would not have been possible without the assistance of the AfroCentric Group, which assisted in obtaining the tools, machinery, and an ambulance that helped expand the clinic and have a powerful impact on more women’s lives and the lives of their partners.

Palesa Makhetha, general manager at AfroCentric Group, says that this clinic is a pillar in the Vosloorus community and has made it possible for underprivileged women, many of whom are unable to afford mammography procedures, to have access to healthcare services.