Saving mothers and babies is not just a goal for Rotarians at RC Tiruchengode, RID 2982, but a guiding mantra in their project execution. This ongoing project at the neonatal ward of the government hospital, Tiruchengode, is providing maternity and child care, a focus area of Rotary, benefitting at least 100 expectant and lactating mothers, and 60–70 newborns every month.
Now that Project Saving Mothers and Babies has become the talk of the town, mothers of infants with critical problems are referred by private hospitals from nearby Erode, Salem, Namakkal, Sankagiri and Mettur, the western belt of Tamil Nadu, to GH, Tiruchengode. “With Rotary having installed high-tech diagnostic facilities at the neonatal ward through global grants over the years, the PHCs in nearby towns direct some of the pregnant women with complications to this hospital for safe delivery,” says project chair PDG T Shanmugasundaram.
Back in 2008–09, the club set up the neonatal ward at the GH at a cost of ₹4 lakh. “We began this maternity ward with a limited facility and equipment. But given the surge in demand for neonatal care, we upgraded it with two global grants worth ₹80 lakh in 2020,” he recalls. RC Sao Paulo Sul, Brazil, RID 4420, two US clubs from RID 6060, and RID 9570, Australia, were the global partners. High-tech devices such as infant ventilator with humidifier, colour doppler, high-flow nasal canula (two units), BiPAP and C-PAP machines, infusion pump, multi para monitor (two units) and otoacoustic emission (OAE) were installed at the neonatal ward boosting its medical services.
A lifesaving device
One of the equipment, CritiCool (₹20 lakh) envelops a newborn with special blankets to bring down its temperature from around 36.5 degree Celsius (normal) to 32–33 degree C through a gradual 72-hour process. “The temperature is then raised gradually in a 12-hour process so that blood flows normally to the baby’s brain and other organs,” explains Shanmugasundaram. “This ultratech device is not available in any other district HQ or medical college hospitals, but is found only at the Institute of Child Health, Egmore, in Chennai.” In the last two years, CritiCool saved 12 low-weight, anaemic babies, and more than 1,500 infants and 5,000 mothers benefitted from the upgraded neonatal unit at the maternity wing over the last 10 years, says K Ramesh, club president.
All the 70 members donate liberally for the neonatal projects throughout the year. “We have done projects worth over ₹1.5 crore at the GH. On festivals and special occasions, we present gifts to pregnant women,” he says. The 45 year-old club has also installed RO plants, oxygen cylinders, set up a blood bank, human milk bank and post maternity ward. “During the Covid pandemic, we have done projects worth ₹15 lakh at the hospital. Each year, the club gives $12,000–$15,000 to TRF and has six major donors.” Recently, the doctors have asked for a biowaste incinerator which will be donated shortly.