By Stephen Macharia
PharmAccess has rolled out an ambulance service targeting expectant women in a bid to boost hospital-based deliveries as the government implements a dusk to dawn curfew to curb spread of the COVID-19.
Dubbed MomCare, the initiative has pooled 47 ambulances in Nairobi and Western Kenya to facilitate pregnant women deliver at health facilities despite the curfew. However, only women participating in the MomCare initiative are eligible.
Moses Otieno, MomCare Project Manager for PharmAccess in Western Kenya says that the goal of the initiative is to ensure that more women experience safe deliveries.
“Women still need to give birth during the COVID-19 pandemic and within curfew hours. By facilitating access to an ambulance during curfew hours we have been able to save mothers and children lives.”
He adds that the MomCare project works to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality rates in the country by giving expectant women access to quality maternal services at selected health facilities without fear of arrests for flouting curfew hours.
“People’s mobility has been significantly affected by the government imposed curfew that prohibits movement between 7.00pm and 5.00am. Expectant women are at a higher risk of developing complications if access to care at the time of delivery is delayed,” he noted.
Lillian Akinyi, 33, a beneficiary of the MomCare service in Rutek, Kisumu County, lauded the service for helping her give birth to her second child.
“I was very afraid since the curfew was introduced. The motorbike and other taxis do not operate at night. Besides the curfew, this area has experienced floods and I was worried for my child. A MomCare ambulance helped me get to hospital. “I don’t know what I would have done. Probably I could have delivered at home with help of a traditional birth attendant, and leave the rest to God if any complications occurred,” Akinyi said.
Akinyi says pregnant women receive SMS reminders for clinic appointments and their due date.
MomCare is facilitating the women to access a minimum of four antenatal care (ANC) visits and to have a skilled delivery at a health facility.
Health providers at the MomCare partner health facilities have a mobile phone based application that allows them follow the pregnancy journey of the mother.
St. Elizabeth Hospital Chiga, located in Kisumu East Sub County, is part of the MomCare program. The hospital administrator Mary Josephine Ndalwala says that free ambulance for delivery purposes during curfew hours has increased access to the hospital and the number of skilled deliveries.
“We used to serve an average of 20 mothers per clinic day but with support from PharmAccess, we now attend to an average of 60 mothers per clinic day. Deliveries have increased from an average of 45 per month to an average of 70 per month. Maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity has also reduced. In the last six months, we have not had maternal mortalities. Neonatal mortalities have reduced from 3 to 1 percent,” Ndalwala says.
The program is running in 24 health facilities in Nairobi, Kisumu and Kakamega counties. Close to 8,000 mothers have access to ambulances to bring them to hospital if urgent maternal related care is needed during the curfew hours, says PharmAccess in a communication to Health Business Magazine.