Health

Skilled anaesthetic nurses vital in saving mother-child lives

The presence of skilled anaesthetics especially during life-saving procedures at birth can go a long way in cutting down maternal deaths in Kenya and across Africa.

Across the country, these deaths are primarily attributed to a lack of access to essential surgical care, particularly life-saving procedures such as caesarean sections.

At the first-ever Pan African Nurse Anesthetists Conference (PANAC 2024), panelists noted that the presence of anaesthetists during general surgeries can greatly improve the overall care system of patients.

In Kenya, the maternal mortality ratio is estimated at 362 deaths per 100,000 live births while across Africa it is 50 times higher than that of high-income countries.

Ms Mary Mungai, the Association of Registered Nurse Anesthetists-Kenya patron, said the lobby, in collaboration with sister associations in Africa, will support individual government efforts to train nurse anaesthetists.

A survey by the World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists (WFSA) revealed that Kenya had only 0.44 physician anesthesiologists per 100,000 people including non-physician anaesthesia providers (NPAPs).

This figure rises to only 1.7 per 100,000, far below the recommended 4 per 100,000. This workforce shortage significantly reduces access to and safety of surgical services in many parts of Africa.

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According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), over 80 percent of maternal deaths are attributed to poor quality of care. Maternal mortality after caesarean delivery in Africa is 50 times higher than that of high-income countries.

In Kenya, despite measures put in place to curb this, Kenya’s Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) remains high at 362 deaths per 100,000 live births.

A primary contributor to this high MMR is the lack of access to essential surgical care, particularly life-saving procedures such as caesarean sections. Improved access to surgical and anaesthesia services can drastically reduce maternal deaths by addressing complications like obstructed labour, haemorrhage, and infections.

Dr. Jackie Rowles, President of the International Federation of Nurse Anesthetists highlighted that advances in technology have made their work safer through monitoring techniques such as pulse oximeters which are electronic devices that clip onto a patient’s finger to measure heart rate and oxygen saturation in his or her red blood cells and the device is useful in assessing patients with lung disease.

The two-day conference held in Nairobi brought together healthcare professionals, policymakers, and stakeholders to address critical issues in anesthesia care across the continent.

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