Karachi: A brand new Paediatric Intensive Care Unit was inaugurated at the Aga Khan University Hospital on Monday.
Specially designed to treat children fighting life-threatening diseases, the new 5,500 square foot, Rs 200 million, eight-bed facility will facilitate many more infants, toddlers and pre-teens whose fragile health requires special attention.
A quick glance at Pakistan’s child mortality rates highlights the urgent need for dedicated facilities to treat children facing complicated diseases. One in 11 children die before their fifth birthday and one in 66 infants lose their lives before the age of one, according to Unicef’s State of Children in Pakistan report.
Over the past five years, the University’s teaching hospital at Stadium Road, Karachi, has noticed a three-fold increase in children requiring intensive care. The new Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) will provide personalised care to around 400 at-risk children every year thereby helping address the shortage of intensive care facilities for children.
Outlining the need for a PICU, Interim Head of the Division for Women and Child Health Professor Iqtidar Ahmad Khan said: “At present many critically ill children continue to receive treatment alongside adults in intensive care units even though a child’s needs are different to that of an adult.”
“A dedicated facility will improve the availability of specialists for ailing children and also create a more comfortable environment for parents seeking the best treatment for their child,” he added.
The new facility has eight large rooms whose open spaces have been designed to enable a variety of specialists to collaborate in treating the child. A dedicated waiting area is present for families and a parent can be with the child in the room whenever s/he is awake.
Every room is equipped with state-of-the-art ventilators and advanced syringe pumps to administer essential medicines. Monitoring systems constantly track breathing, heart function and electrical activity in the brain. The PICU also houses two negative pressure isolation rooms to provide special care to children with contagious diseases.
The advanced systems available in each room are used by skilled paediatricians supported by a team of nurses – one nurse to each patient ensuring that no child in intensive care is left alone. Each nurse is trained to identify signs of worsening health in young babies and is aware of how to calm the fears of children and parents in the unfamiliar environment of a hospital.
The opening of the PICU follows the January 2015 doubling in the capacity of the University Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to a 24-bedded unit, which cares for babies under 28 days of age.
Commenting on the impact of the PICU, AKU President Firoz Rasul said: “The Paediatric Intensive Care Unit is an integral part of the University’s commitment to Women and Child Health. This focus on children’s health through the provision of intensive care for neonates, babies and adolescents is a key part of our services and education as well as research.”
The benefits of the PICU will extend beyond the boundaries of the AKUH and its patients. During treatment, AKUH’s specialists are constantly sharing their expertise in paediatric critical care with young doctors through the University’s fellowship programme. Upon the completion of their education and training, fellow will be able to apply their skills at any hospital, inside or outside Pakistan.
At the ceremony, one of the PICU donors said: “There is nothing worse for a parent than seeing their child suffer from a life-threatening disease. The uncertainty and helplessness of such difficult times is eased when you know that there is a specially designed facility that can bring them back to health.”
“We know that there is a shortage of high quality facilities to treat critically ill children. By helping the AKUH set up such a facility, we are confident that we can save the lives of many young kids,” he added.