Ventilators for Covid-19 treatment saving children’s lives at Korangi facility

M. Waqar Bhatti
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2023

Ventilators that were being used to save lives of Covid-19 patients at the Expo Centre Karachi during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021 and 2022 have now been shifted to a child hospital where they have helped save lives of hundreds of premature babies and sick children.

These ventilators are now kept at the first paediatric unit or hospital of the Sindh Institute of Child Health and Neonatology (SICHN) in Korangi No 5. During last six months, children from not only different areas of Karachi but also other cities of Sindh were brought here for treatment.

“Over 650 children have so far been treated at NICU and over 1,600 at PICU of the SICHN in Korangi No. 5 since its establishment. The lives of many of these children were saved with ventilators used at the Expo Centre’s Covid-19 facility in 2021 and 2022,” said Prof Jamal Raza, executive director of the SICHN Karachi, as he spoke to The News.

“The survival rate at our NICU is 88 per cent and 94 per cent at PICU where we are using the ventilators and other equipment used to treat and save lives of Covid-19 patients during the peak of pandemic,” he said.

Established under the SICHN Act 2018 passed by the Sindh Assembly, the child health facility with 135 beds started functioning at the Sindh Government Hospital Korangi No 5 four months back, and within a few months of its inception, the institute has been accorded accreditation by the CPSP.

According to international health bodies, neonatal mortality rate is 41 per 1,000 live births, while the current infant mortality rate for Pakistan in 2022 is 56.888 deaths per 1,000 live births, a 1.91 per cent decline from 2021. The infant mortality rate for Pakistan in 2021 was 57.998 deaths per 1,000 live births, a 1.88 per cent decline from 2020.

“Infant mortality is 41 per 1,000 live births in Pakistan, which is highest among the world. Preterm birth, intrapartum-related complications [birth asphyxia or inability to breathe at birth], infections and birth defects are the leading causes of most neonatal deaths,” Prof Raza said, adding that most of these deaths could be prevented with availability of better health facilities and neonatologists.

He said the SICHN would train more paediatricians and neonatologists and send them to public and private health facilities across the province and as well as to other provinces of the country to treat neonates and children. Within four months of its inception, the SICHN Karachi has become the first public sector institution to be accorded accreditation by the College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSP) for FCPS trainings in the field of paediatrics, neonatology and Pediatric ICU.

During a visit to the SICHN in Korangi, hundreds of mothers with children in their arms were seen waiting for medical advice at the hospital’s out-patient department (OPD) rooms while the NICU and PICU units at the second and third floors of the building, were buzzing with beeps of monitors as children were under treatment inside state-of-the-art incubators, high-flow oxygen units and ventilators that saved countless lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prof Raza said they had to get the ventilators modified for the needs and requirements of children and newly-born babies as they were originally designed to treat adults, but now these 27 ventilators and other equipment are saving the lives of premature babies, having weight as low as 700 grammes at the time of birth.

“We are proud to provide free-of-charge health services, which often cost Rs100,000 per day at other hospitals,” Prof Raza said. Speaking about their recognition by the CPSP, he said the CPSP’s accreditation for a public sector institution within four months of inception was a great achievement. The SICHN is now the first public sector institution and third in Sindh after the Aga Khan University Hospital and Indus Hospital to offer FCPS training in neonatal paediatrics.