Medics call for better access to life saving drugs

Post-partum haemorrhage is the largest direct cause of maternal death. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH

What you need to know:

  • The drugs are currently only available in level four, five and referral hospitals.
  • The drugs can only be used by well trained health professionals.
  • The drugs require special storage facilities because they are affected by temperature changes.

Maternal health specialists have called for improved access to life saving drugs that prevent postpartum hemorrhage at the community level to reduce the rate of maternal deaths in the country.
During the 45th Kenya Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society (KOGS) science congress held in Nyeri, the medics said the essential drugs should be approved for usage in both level two and three hospitals as they addressed ways that Covid-19 had affected maternal health.
According to KOGS president Elly Odongo, the pandemic has affected maternal health care both directly and indirectly.
“The health system has been affected because many women could not access health services and opted to deliver at home, this put many at risk. Health care workers were also affected by the restrictions at the beginning,” he noted.
Disruption of supply chains on essential drugs, increased teen pregnancies, gender based violence, reduced health financing that was accelerated by the industrial action by health care professionals were among the challenges that faced the health care sector during the pandemic.
“Giving birth is a physiological process, and while other social functions slowed down, women still got pregnant and delivered babies,” Dr Odongo said.
The specialists highlighted the use of technology to address and reduce maternal mortality from post-partum hemorrhage (PPH)- this is excessive bleeding after giving birth.
“Across the world, we have to depend on oxytocin, to stop postpartum bleeding but it is affected by temperature changes from when it is manufactured, shipped, stored and transported to the health facilities,” Dr Odongo noted.
He said the specialists were working with the government to adopt the use of more stable agents that can withstand the temperature changes.
If adopted, he said it would ensure patients are not affected by use of substandard products.
“We are strengthening training of all cadres of people who work in the sector, on how to use these heat stable drugs,” he said.
Currently the heat stable drugs are only available in level IV, V and referral hospitals which Dr Elly explained is a measure to ensure the drugs were only used by trained health professionals.
“We are working on training of the health workers especially nurses at the health centres and dispensaries, on the proper use of the drugs even as the Society champions for accessibility,” he explained.
Over 80 percent of Kenyan women are attended to by nurses and skilled birth attendants.
During the conference, the specialists went ahead to propose expansion of the sub-specialists’ fellowships within the field of maternal care.
“We need to expand some areas such as reproductive endocrinology, fertility, minimal access surgery, so the women who need care have access to it and not be referred to foreign countries,” he noted.
Unfortunately based on the data presented at the conference, Kenya is losing 362 women per every 100,000 live births which is about 6,000 deaths per year.
This is against the World Health Organisation (WHO) effort under the sustainable Development goals to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births by 2030.