‘Helping babies breathe’ training programme to further reduce neonatal mortality

The Health Ministry has collaborated with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) to reduce the neonatal mortality rate in Guyana through the ‘Helping babies breathe’ training programme.

The initiative seeks to build the capacity of nurses and other healthcare workers to provide quality care to newborn babies. 

Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony said while neonatal mortality refers to the first seven days following birth, the first minute can determine whether the child lives or dies.

We can make a big difference. So, this training that you will be receiving is to help you to identify those risk factors early and to take action as quickly as possible so that you can save that child’s life and once we are able to do that and implement this programme on a scale, we will be saving lots of lives,”  the minister told participants on Wednesday.

While some of the techniques covered in the training are already being used in Guyana, the health minister said more persons must be trained.

Meanwhile, Dr Anthony said there have been great improvements in neonatal care at the Georgetown Public Hospital over recent years.

Neonatal Nurse cares for a newborn at the Georgetown Public Hospital

If you think back about 10 years ago at the GPHC we had two paediatricians, we had a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) that was level one, so they weren’t able to help babies who had problems with breathing, because level one is the basic NICU that you have.  We have since changed that, and we now have a level four NICU in the Georgetown hospital. We have at least about 22 paediatricians now at the hospital and over the period we would have trained 70 NICU nurses. The impact of that is that our neonatal mortality is now six per 1, 000 at the Georgetown hospital. So, there is a big difference,” the health minister said.

Guyana’s neonatal mortality stands at 19 per 1, 000, indicating a disparity in the other institutions, while hinterland neonatal mortality is approximately 30 per 1, 000.

Now we can change that, we can change that by our approach by making sure that we can extend our NICU services to all regional hospitals and so we have already started doing that, we have a NICU now at New Amsterdam, we have one in Linden, we have one in West Demerara and we are expanding them. I think we have about six NICUs in these different regional hospitals,” Dr Anthony relayed.

Within the next three years, the ministry will work to have a functioning NICU in the Mabaruma, Lethem and Bartica hospitals.

Health workers engaged in the Helping babies breathe training programme

“We expect that in a couple of years we should be able to narrow this gap that I spoke about, so we have demonstrated at the Georgetown hospital that we can get these numbers down to single digits and we want that done for the rest of the country,” Dr Anthony said.

He hopes that with the combined approach at all levels of public health care facilities, the effort will make a big difference.

A maternal and child care hospital which is soon to be constructed at Liliendaal, East Coast of Demerara, will feature a section, especially for neonatal care.

The training is the only part of the process of reducing neonatal mortality in Guyana.