Singapore-India Collaboration Results in Better Care for Critically Ill Newborn Babies in Tamil Nadu

Chengalpattu, India, 9 October 2013 – It takes a whole team of people with special skills and talents to save the life of a critically-ill newborn baby. And today is an auspicious day to celebrate the achievements of such a team of specialists – the team from Chengalpattu Medical College and Hospital (CMCH).

Over the past four years, the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) has brought together teams of neonatal specialist doctors and nurses from CMCH and Singapore’s KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) in a medical mission to share knowledge, skills and resources.

Every year, an estimated 2,500 newborn infants in Chengalpattu district and beyond who face life threatening conditions come to CCMH’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The aim of the SIF Specialist Volunteer (Enhancing Newborn Services) project has been to update and enhance the neonatal knowledge and clinical skills of those who care for at-risk newborns, including critically ill and premature babies.

Serving as Specialist Volunteers with the SIF, Singapore’s KKH team of neonatologists and neonatal ICU nurses have trained some 120 healthcare professionals in Tamil Nadu. They include paediatric doctors and neonatal ICU nurses from CMCH, senior health nurses, village health nurses and staff nurses from 12 Primary Healthcare Centres in the Chengalpattu District and the Transport Nursing Team of Kancheepuram district’s Neonatal Ambulance service. The training focused on neonatal resuscitation skills and transportation practices, and raised awareness of infection control issues.

This has equipped them with skills to better respond to and manage birth-related complications in newborns such as birth asphyxia and severe infections. This month will see 100 nurses from CMCH’s School of Nursing attending a series of workshops, bringing the total number of trainees to 220 since the project’s inception in 2010. The SIF-managed project has helped advance the hospital’s ongoing efforts to raise its standards of clinical care. Apart from knowledge and skills transfer, the Singapore specialist volunteers also shared best practices from KKH.

Following this four-year engagement, the hospital has recorded better clinical outcomes, registering a 15% reduction in infection-related infant mortality as a result of improved respiratory management practices and strengthened infection control standards. Its capacity to serve more patients has also increased, with a 16% increase in admissions and now manages 30 beds in its neonatal ICU ward, up from 15. This capacity to serve more patients is a result of not just more beds but also greater staff and department efficiencies due to better clinical skills, better documentation, stronger knowledge and shorter in-patient stays. CMCH is now the preferred referral centre in the larger Kancheepuram district for newborn babies suffering from life-threatening conditions, and has begun to receive referrals from private hospitals.

“As a teaching hospital serving the Chengalpattu community, we constantly challenge ourselves to do better with the newborn babies who come through our wards every year. Some don’t make it due to a complicated set of circumstances but it is our duty and mission to save as many babies’ lives as we can despite those circumstances. This project has been powered by the commitment and generosity of the specialist volunteers from Singapore. The 220 CMCH professionals who have and will benefit will in turn impact on patients here at CMCH and elsewhere in the district. This ‘cascade effect’ of these skills enhancements will see tens of thousands of newborn babies benefitting every year. We are so proud of all that has been achieved,” said Dr Thenmozhivalli, Dean of Chengalpattu Medical College and Hospital.

“As medical professionals, we are committed always to sharing life-saving knowledge with our peers overseas communities. Inasmuch as we shared our knowledge and best practices with our peers in Chengalpattu, we have in turn learnt much from them as committed professionals working so hard and against formidable challenges to save new lives,” said Associate Professor Victor Samuel Rajadurai, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Neonatology, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Ms Margaret Thevarakom, Director of International Volunteerism, Singapore International Foundation, says: “At the SIF, we believe in the tangible good we can create for communities when we work together to enhance basic healthcare and education for them. We are thankful to our Indian partner Chengalpattu Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) for their friendship and trust, and grateful for the dedication of Singapore’s KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in joining us to build a better world. Through this collaboration between the Singapore and Tamil Nadu medical communities, critically ill newborn babies in Chengalpattu will have access to higher standards of clinical care, giving them a better chance at survival and a normal life in future.”

The Enhancing Newborn Services project is another milestone is the 18-year friendship between Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and communities in India, which has seen numerous SIF volunteers and their counterparts in India joining hands to improve lives and build enduring friendships.



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