Fostering Better Care

IHHN’s maternal and neonatal programme will be instrumental in saving and improving lives of mothers and their newborns in Pakistan

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By Maha Aamir and Sakina Juzar

Published: Sun 14 Aug 2022, 12:00 AM

Motherhood is one of the most powerful experiences a woman can have. For the majority of the woman, motherhood means happiness, love, and contentment, while for some it means distress, compromised health, and painful miscarriages. The journey from conceiving a child to actually delivering a baby can be a very different experience for each and every woman in the world. However, the journey is often more complex for women residing in developing countries, than it is for those in developed countries.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 810 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and child¬birth. Out of these, 94 per cent of maternal deaths occur in low and lower-middle-income countries. Unfortunately, in developing countries like Pakistan, what should ideally be good news for the entire family, turns into a health-related concern. Pakistan has one of the poorest pregnancy outcomes in the world, significantly worse than many other developing countries. The maternal and neonatal mortality rate in Pakistan is unacceptability high with 186 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and 40.4 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births. These ratios are nearly 26 per cent higher in rural areas as compared to urban areas. The reasons behind these depressing statistics are lack of healthcare facilities, education, malnutrition, poverty, and socio-economic factors in Pakistan.

It is unfortunate that even in 2022, the majority of women in Pakistan have to strive hard to be given their basic health-care right. These high numbers are a re¬flection of the healthcare inequality in accessing basic healthcare services in rural areas. Improving maternal and neonatal health is essential to ensure a strong and prosperous society as the health of a child— the future generation of a country, is heavily dependent on the health of a mother. In recognition of this fact, Indus Hospital and Health Network (IHHN) has spent the last 15 years expanding its services to deliver free-of-cost, essential healthcare to women and children all over Pakistan, especially those living in rural areas.

With a mission to provide quality healthcare services — absolutely free of cost, IHHN has answered the prayers of many in Pakistan. What started with a 150-bed hospital in Karachi, is now one of the largest free-of-cost healthcare providers in Pakistan with a diverse network of 13 hospitals, four physical rehabilitation centres, four regional blood centres, container-based community health centres, public health initiatives, mobile boat clinic, and primary care programmes spread across the entire country. IHHN is benefitting 5.4 million people on a yearly basis with no discrimination based on sex, race, caste, creed, or financial stability. In a country where 39.3 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, IHHN is providing completely free-of-cost healthcare services, along with free medicines and accommodation options. This noble cause is supported by The Indus Hospital, UAE branch, which is an initiative of the Pakistani citizens residing in the UAE to support the dispensation of quality healthcare free of cost to the most vulnerable population of Pakistan through its collective efforts.

In Pakistan, more than 63 per cent of the population lives in rural areas with communities stationed with no or little access to basic healthcare services. This becomes a reason for high death rates in these communities which are already a victim of low education, poverty, and severe health parity throughout the country. As most of Pakistan’s tertiary care facilities are clustered in urban areas, IHHN rolled out a nationwide Primary Care Programme (PCP) in 2017 to reach the unreachable communities and improve the vital statistics for these areas. A central part of the PCP is the Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health (MNCH) programme, which caters to immunisation, nutrition pro¬gramme, lactation management programme, safe delivery programme, de-worming programme, family planning, integrated management of childhood illness, and midwifery programme.

The MNCH is run in several primary care and community clinics across the country, primarily following a midwife-led model of care. The centres are operated by intensively experienced doctors and trained mid-wives, who provide pre-conception, antenatal, and post-natal care to women and children in their areas. Healthcare facilities include repeated antenatal visits, ultra-sound services, a 24/7 labour room in selected sites, followed by post-delivery check-ups, newborn care checks and lactation support. The MNCH programme has had a powerful impact in Pakistan’s rural communities by providing comprehensive training and education to empower the women of the household. During 2020-21, more than 9,500 visits for antenatal and postnatal care were facilitated under PCP.

Within the network of 13 hospitals, similar care has been given to improve the outcome of its maternal and neonatal patients. In 2020-21 alone, the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at IHHN has taken several complicated cases, including severe post-partum hemorrhage, primary amenorrhea, cases with bad obstetric history, and high-risk gynecological oncological surgeries. Ap¬proximately 50,000 outpatients are facilitated every month with timely, high-quality care completely free of cost.

With the fifth largest population in the world, the healthcare scenario of Pakistan needs to improve its maternal and neonatal health outcomes, which will determine the health of future generations to come and impact the growth of families, communities, and the economy at large. In accordance with its mission, IHHN plans to increase access to timely, affordable, and high-quality maternal and neonatal healthcare by expanding its facilities and empowering communities by educating them through trained, competent healthcare workers.

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