The Family Health Bureau of the Ministry of Health has underscored the need to make available therapeutic hypothermia machines in hospitals island-wide, which is the treatment modality for perinatal asphyxia, a condition which resulted in 200 to 300 neonate deaths per annum.

The Maternal and Child Morbidity and Mortality Surveillance Unit observed that at present one such machine which provided therapeutic cooling was available at the Castle Street Hospital for Women (Teaching).

Member of the Perinatal Society of Sri Lanka (PSSL), Dr. Saman Kumara said that this was the first such machine in the country while adding that it also currently being used on babies.

National Programme Manager – Maternal and Child Morbidity and Mortality Surveillance Chairperson of the Expert Committee on Ergonomics of the Sri Lanka Medical Association and President of the PSSL, Dr. Kapila Jayaratne pointed out that the quality of life of the newborn who survives also depends on how early they receive the treatment as there is no point in receiving it subsequent to brain damage having occurred.

From between 3,000 to 4,000 infant deaths that take place per year, 30% or 900 neonate deaths take place on the first day of the birth itself, Dr. Jayaratne emphasized.
“These machines are very expensive. This is a major priority and focus area as far as improving perinatal care is concerned,” he observed.