The sheltered waiting area for pregnant women at Mukono Health Centre IV

Mukono Health Centre IV is a level-four health facility located in the community of Mukono, Uganda. As the Global Health Corps fellows working with Save the Mothers (STM) for the 2016/17 academic year, we recently visited it for the first time. Mukono’s is one of nine health facilities enrolled in STM’s Mother Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Last year, it ranked first out of 250 level four health centres across the country.

Uganda’s healthcare system

Uganda’s healthcare system is built around institutions that offer six different levels of care. The fourth level, Health Centre IVs, are intended to be the first point of referral for comprehensive emergency obstetric care in the country’s health system. Unfortunately, even these facilities are often under-resourced with staff, equipment and supplies. Thus, they are often unable to provide the care they should. The Mother Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (MBFHI) is seeking to change that reality by working within hospitals and health centers to ensure that women receive timely, high-quality, dignified, and respectful care during pregnancy and childbirth.

In touring the maternity ward, we had the opportunity to see the difference the MBFHI is making, and to see the recent improvements.

The difference the Mother Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is making

Colourful new curtains separate beds in the labor and maternity wards to ensure privacy. Two maternity beds and 10 mattresses provide additional space and comfort for the high number of delivering mothers. A new fetal scope and bipap breathing machine help to provide quality care. A large sheltered waiting area provides mothers with a comfortable place to sit while they await care, out of direct sunlight.

Clinical training of midwives on emergency obstetric and neonatal care has also been a part of the Initiative here. A room within the maternity ward has been designated as the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU will provide specialty equipment to deal with pregnancy complications, like ill or premature babies. So far, an incubator and maternity bed have been provided. However, additional equipment and technical training is needed to see this NICU fully operational.

The work that Save the Mothers has done is recognized and appreciated. The director of the maternity ward, Sister Alex, reports that the rate of maternal deaths has continued to decline with only four maternal deaths in the last three years.

Progress has been made, but further improvements are needed if Mukono Health Center IV is to provide an optimal level of care for mothers. However, having the opportunity to visit these health facilities and see firsthand the difference Save the Mothers is making, is an inspiring experience that fires our passion to continue helping to bring about impactful change.