Masaka — The increasing number of premature births is worrying medics at Masaka Regional Referral Hospital.
On average, 60 premature babies are born and admitted to the neonatal intensive unit at the regional health facility monthly, according to Ms Bingi Grace, the officer in-charge of the unit.
Last month, 66 preterm babies were admitted to the unit.
Many of the babies, according to Ms Bingi require intensive medical care because of long term health complications they suffer.
She says despite the big numbers, the unit is designed to admit only eight premature babies at a time.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines preterm birth or a premature as a baby born before 37 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period.
According to experts, a normal pregnancy is supposed to last for 40 weeks.
When Daily Monitor visited the facility recently, four babies were sharing an incubator meant to accommodate only one baby.
Some mothers were substituting with Kangaroo Mother Care, sometimes called skin-to-skin care, to keep their babies warm. But even with this method, the room available can only accommodate four mothers at a time.
“This is the kind of situation we experience. It is our duty to ensure that all of those mothers and their babies walk out of the hospital alive and happy,” Ms Bingi told Daily Monitor in an interview last Thursday.
However, Ms Sylvia Namutebi, who gave birth to an eight-and-half months old baby is almost losing hope.
“There are so many babies who need the service, but the equipment to save their lives is not enough. Not all of us can afford private health facilities,” a visibly scared Namutebi says.
According to Ms Bingi, they initiated the kangaroo method to avoid discharging mothers before their babies’ lives are out of danger.
“But again, we find ourselves in a situation where a mother with a pre-term baby has to be discharged on confirming that she has learnt how to regulate her baby’s warmth and can determine how much milk it needs a day,” Ms Bingi explained.
When a baby is taken to one of the only eight incubators at the unit and becomes slightly stable, it is put off oxygen and is given back to the mother to create space for others.
The mother and her baby are then sent to the general maternity ward before being discharged.
After being discharged, the patients only report back for review on appointment.
Dr Gonzaga Ssenyondo, a senior gynecologist at the hospital, says the neonatal unit requires more four oxygen tubes to operate successfully.
“But we encourage the use of kangaroo mother care more because it fits well with our communities,” Dr Ssenyondo says.