By Agnes Kyotalengerire
The health ministry has directed the National Medical Stores (NMS) to make the procurement of newborn resuscitation devices a priority.
The move is intended to ensure availability of the equipment to stem the high rate of death of newborn babies who fail to breathe at birth, a condition known as asphyxia.
If implemented, the devices will be included on the essential medicines and supplies procurement list and should be available at health centers III and IV which have suffered severe shortages leading to the preventable deaths.
The equipment include an ambu bag (neonatal bag) and mask, suction bulb and a training mannequin.
Previously, the procurement and supply of the kits had largely depended on donors and had not been adequate or consistent, leading to severe shortages at Health Centres III and IV.
“Now the next step is to make sure the resources are available. Let us work with NMS to ensure there is a budget line for procurement of the devices,” said Dr. Jacinto Amandua, the commissioner of clinical services.
He was speaking at a stakeholders meeting which was called to find ways to ensure availability of the equipment. The debate was organized by the White Ribbon Alliance; a non-governmental organization that advocates for safe motherhood at Mackinnon Suites Nakasero in Kampala on Tuesday.
There is a shortage of about 750 sets of resuscitation device kits and sh262m is needed to procure them, according to NMS general manager Moses Kamabare.
“Each resuscitation device kit costs sh350,000 but when purchasing in bulk the unit cost can drop to as low as sh300,000,” he said.
Kamabare added: “I have already included it on the list. The Ministry of Health is trying to organize for the money to have the procurement done next financial year.”
Assistant Commissioner for Child Health Dr. Jessica Nsungwa called for the supply of spare parts and the training of users of the devices since some health workers lack the skills.
The directive to shift the purchase of the devices to NMS was first made by the director of health services in charge of clinical and community health services, Dr. Anthony Mbonye, in a letter dated January 20, 2015, as response to White Ribbon Alliance Uganda’s request for a policy shift.
Out of the 106 newborn babies who die every day due to preventable causes, 26% (28 babies) of these die on the first day of life due to asphyxia. (According to the Uganda Demographic health survey 2011).
A recent survey conducted by White Ribbon Alliance Uganda in Lira, Mityana and Kabale districts revealed that most of the public health centers lack resuscitation equipment and where it is available, health workers lack the skills to use them.
According to the study, out of the nine health centers in Lira, only three had the requirements. In Mityana, out of 12 health facilities assessed, only seven had the devices. In Kabale 19 out of the 22 health centers had the devices.