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Governments called to invest in specialist nurse training to avert maternal deaths

By Antynet Ford

A continental conference of nurses has urged governments to sponsor specialist training for nurses working with expectant mothers and infants to curb the high number of deaths experienced during surgical childbirth.

The deaths are primarily attributed to lack of access to essential surgical care, particularly life-saving procedures such as caesarean sections.

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

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

“PANAC 2024 is a significant milestone for nurse anaesthetists in Africa as it provides an unprecedented opportunity to unify our efforts in improving anaesthesia care, ensuring safer surgical outcomes for millions. This conference is not just about professional development; it’s about saving lives.”

A survey by the World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists (WFSA) revealed that Kenya had only 0.44 physician anesthesiologists per 100,000 people and 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.

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.

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

Read also:- Nursing Experience on Universal Health Coverage at Moi Teaching & Referral Hospital (MTRH) Eldoret

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