Better-funded emergency rooms to reduce children’s deaths by 50pc

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ISLAMABAD: While every year 600,000 children die in the emergency room (ER) across the country, the number can be reduced by 50 per cent by pumping just a nominal amount of money (Rs2,000 per child) to improve the emergency response.

Child Life Foundation Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Ahsan Rabbani made these remarks in a conversation with Dawn.

‘It is unfortunate that the number of children who die in the ER is more than the number of deaths due to cancer and a number of other lethal diseases in Pakistan. We can reduce the deaths of children in ER by pumping a nominal amount in ER,’ he said.

While sharing the details, he said: `The foundation gets 60 per cent funding from the government and arranges 40pc remaining amount from philanthropists. We have been working across the country and providing treatment to children up to 14 years of age at ERs. We don`t leave those children after providing treatment at the ER, then children are sent to the ward for observation. Once we believe that children are out of danger, we suggest their parents shift them to some other/public sector hospital so that some other deserving children would be adjusted to those beds.

However, a majority of them don’t need further hospitalisation.

`We have been mostly operating in the premises of public sector hospitals as the federal and provincial government have given us premises to support them in the noble cause of saving lives,` Dr Rabbani said while he was at the Children’s Emergency Room at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims). He said that the new children`s emergency room at Pims managed by Child Life Foundation, has successfully treated 200,000 children, since its establishment in August 2022.

`This milestone marks a significant achievement in combating child mortality rates in Pakistan, with the survival rate of critically ill children notably on the rise.

Pakistan faces a critical issue as almost 2,000 children succumb to various illnesses daily, making it imperative to address the high mortality rates among children in the country. Recognising this challenge, the foundation has implemented a solution-focused approach, emphasising the importance of enhancing emergency care to effectively reduce child mortality rates by 50pc,` he said.

It is worth mentioning that operating under a public-private partnership with the government, the foundation revitalised the children`s emergency room at Pims in August 2022.

Dr Rabbani said one of the key highlights of the newly revamped emergency room was its pharmacy, which maintained a 45-day stock of essential medicines, including lifesaving drugs.

`This strategic measure ensures that critical medications are readily available at all times, further enhancing the emergency response capabilities of the facility. The foundation`s impact extends far beyond Pims, with a scalable and cost-effective model operating in 313 hospitals nationwide, including emergency rooms and telemedicine satellite centres. Serving over 10,000 children every month in ER at Pims, from various regions, including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Punjab, KP, Gilgit-Baltistan, and AJK,` he said.

According to the website of the foundation, infectious diseases and preventable conditions claim the lives of hundreds of children in low income countries. According to Unicef, Pakistan has an under-five mortality rate (U5MR) of 74 deaths/1,000 live births. The leading causes of death among children under the age of five are preterm birth complications, pneumonia, diarrhoea, birth asphyxia, and malaria and most of these deaths can be prevented by simple, low cost interventions. As many as 92,000 children die of pneumonia every year in Pakistan, the illness accounts for 16pc of total child deaths in the country.

Acknowledgement: Published in Dawn News on 22nd April 2024.
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