The tall claims of revamping the health scenario in the province, a nine per cent increase in deaths of newborns in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) has challenged the government’s claims.
According to the official data of health facilities across the province, annual neonatal deaths were to have increased from 21 per 1000 deaths in 2016 to 32 per 1000 births in the first quarter of 2017.
Officials privy to the matter stated that the data had been compiled from the monthly reports submitted by health facilities to the provincial health ministry adding that the data did not record unofficial deaths [births at homes]. According to government officials, health facilities including District and Tehsil Headquarters Hospitals along with Rural Health Centers and Basic Health Units were being provided with the necessary equipment so that the general public does not have to travel to tertiary care hospitals, especially for giving birth.
Official documents read that trained staff at government health facilities performed as many as 15,132 deliveries across the province with around 45,640 live births.
The data, available with District Health Information system (DHIS), noted that in the first three months of 2017 around 1,457 newborns died out of 45,640 children born in the province, a ratio of 32 per 1000 births.
By comparison in 2016, the ratio was at around 21 deaths per 1000 live births when some 3,648 neonatal deaths were reported in the year with 177,231 live births across K-P.
A similar increase has been reported in the maternal mortality rate as well.
A total of 265 mothers died during childbirth at government health facilities with around 139 deaths per 100,000 births. This ratio, however, has increased in the first quarter of 2017 after 105 women died out of 50,563 deliveries conducted by skilled doctors.
Per the data, some health facilities continued to witness high infant and maternal mortality rates despite the fact they were well equipped and even had doctors available with officials stumped for an answer why.
Health experts, however, noted that there was a need to address the skill gap of doctors and healthcare professionals in the province. “Increasing salaries and filling vacant posts for doctors does not ensure protection,” they said.
“This is the tip of the iceberg and at the same time, the data is not correct since I am sure these are just 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the reported details,” Pediatric Association of Pakistan President Dr Amin Jan Gandapur told The Express Tribune after reviewing the official data.
“There is much more [number of unreported neonatal deaths] since we do not have any child birth registration practice,” he said.
He added that while the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led provincial government had been focusing on filling vacant posts for doctors and recruiting other officials to staff health centres in the province, they were not focusing on providing facilities. As a result, Dr Gandapur was of the opinion that the government efforts would not make much difference and that there would remain a massive gap between the government’s claims and ground reality.