Infant Mortality in Pakistan: Zero pediatric ventilators available in Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, and Tharparkar districts

Experts believe that pediatric ventilators are life-saving equipment without which the infant mortality rate will continue to rise dramatically in the province.

According to media reports, public sector hospitals in Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, and Tharparkar districts don’t have a single pediatric ventilator.

Due to the unavailability of the medical instrument, dozens of children are directed towards the National Institute of Child Health (NICH), Karachi, to obtain artificial ventilation. However, most sick children don’t survive the journey from one city to another.

Leading cause of infant mortality

Experts believe that pediatric ventilators are life-saving equipment without which the infant mortality rate will continue to rise dramatically in the province. The pediatric or neonatal intensive care ventilators provide temporary breathing support to premature and critically ill babies who require full or partial assistance to maintain adequate ventilation. Public health facilities that don’t have ventilators turn away babies who need serious medical care.

While speaking to a media outlet, Dr. Mubashir Ali Kolachi, Medical Superintendent of the LUHH, stated:

Due to the absence of any pediatric ICU without ventilator support, we are compelled to refer premature babies requiring artificial ventilation to a charity hospital in Hyderabad or the National Institute of Child Health Karachi (NICH). We don’t have any pediatric ventilators at the Liaquat University Hospital Hyderabad (LUHH) at the moment. Still, we will have three new Intensive Care Units for adults, children, and infants within this month.

Health officials at public hospitals in Mipurkhas, Mithi, Thatta, and Badin also confirmed that they didn’t have any neonatal ventilators at their health facilities, and children requiring artificial breathing were mainly referred to the NICH Karachi.

How is NICH Karachi coping with the massive inflow of sick children?

Director NICH Karachi Dr. Nasir Saleem said:

We are receiving children requiring artificial ventilation from the entire Sindh, other areas of Karachi, and even from Balochistan, while we only have 25 neonatal ventilators, which always remain occupied. Premature babies from the entire Sindh are referred to NICH Karachi as most public hospitals in other cities and districts of the province lack neonatal ICUs with ventilators. I assume many children don’t even manage to reach Karachi due to long-distance and expire on the way to the hospital.

The NICH Director further stated:

A referral system for critically sick children in the province doesn’t exist. The children are referred to Karachi without knowing whether any ventilator is available at the hospital or not. If there is a referral system and emergency dashboard available, doctors at every hospital would know where to send the highly sick children or whether there is any ventilator available at any hospital or not.

Dr. Nasir Saleem concluded the statement by saying:

The establishment of pediatric and neonatal ICUs with ventilators at divisional and district level health facilities can save many lives. Keeping a child on ventilator costs at least 15,000-20,000 rupees per day, and as most parents cannot afford treatment at private hospitals, they bring their children to NICH, which cannot deal with such a large number of critically sick patients.

The unavailability of pediatric ventilators is a severe issue in the province of Sindh. It requires immediate attention and action as the lives of several children are at stake. Medical experts at the public sector hospitals in Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, and Tharparkar request the government to take appropriate action in the matter soon.

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