Doha, 20 April 2021: Since its launch in 2015, the Qatar Neonatal Transport Program, the first of its kind nationwide emergency transportation service in the Middle East, has safely transported over 950 neonates from different public and private healthcare facilities in Qatar and from other countries within the region for tertiary level care at the Women’s Wellness and Research Center (WWRC) as well as abroad.
The objective of the high acuity transportation service, initiated to improve care for newborns in the country, was to safely transport high-risk preterm babies born in other public or private hospitals to WWRC for urgent specialist care.
“Since we started the program six years ago, 956 fragile neonates have been transported between maternity facilities in Qatar. This means between 150 to180 neonates are transported yearly and the number is expected to continue to increase within the coming years. The availability of an organized neonatal transport program is of great benefit to these fragile neonates as it improves their chance of survival and reduces their medical complications,” explains Dr. Mai Al Qubaisi, WWRC’s Acting Director of NICU.
According to her, the statistics gathered over the past six years show that the mortality rate within seven days after transportation of neonates dropped from 3.82% to 1.84% and mortality rate within three days after transportation dropped from 2.39% to 1.23%.
“Looking at 2019 statistics, there were 26,244 births across the country, of which 17,000 births were in WWRC, Qatar’s only tertiary maternity care center. The remaining 9,244 births took place at private maternity facilities across the country,” notes Dr. Al Qubaisi. She states that the main role of the neonatal transportation service and program is to support all babies born across all HMC’s community hospitals as well as private facilities and to centralize neonatal transport services across the country.
“HMC has one tertiary level maternity hospital – Women’s Wellness and Research Center and three general maternity hospitals - Al Khor Hospital, Al Wakra Hospital and The Cuban Hospital. They all receive pregnant women and ensure they safely deliver their babies. However, the Qatar Neonatal Transport Program offers all these general maternity hospitals as well as Sidra Medicine and all major private clinics with birth units a crucial time-saving service to bring any at-risk babies to the specialist treatment available at WWRC as quickly as possible,” explains Dr. Hilal Amin Al Rifai, WWRC’s Acting Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director.
According to him, WWRC has more than 100 NICU cots for the care of critically ill newborns and the hospital is also equipped with a large Emergency Department with an expanded visitor waiting area, seven operating theaters, 26 labor and delivery rooms, over 240 inpatient rooms and a number of specialized outpatient clinics for Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“We had seen the success rate of the Qatar Neonatal Transport Program when it was first piloted for 12 months before its official launch on 24 November, 2015 and the achievements recorded within the past six years further consolidate our commitment across all maternity facilities at HMC to offer women and newborns in Qatar high-quality care promptly and at all times,” Dr. Hilal adds.
Qatar Neonatal Transport Program Director, Dr Fouad Abounahia credits the success of the program to a fully trained on call round-the-clock NICU team with state-of-the-art equipment stationed within the WWRC’s NICU ready to be deployed within 45 minutes.
Dr. Abounahia explains that the full term and preterm newborns in need of the transportation service could have congenital or surgical anomalies, respiratory distress or could require an emergency invasive surgery stating that, “The existence of Qatar Neonatal Transport Program and centralization of neonatal transport services within the country, allow us to deliver tertiary care services to these fragile infants as early as possible and to improve the neonatal interfacility transport process, patients’ outcome and the quality of care of these critically ill newborns. Once we receive a call from the referring hospital, the transport team is able to mobilize very quickly.”
He mentions that the transportation program extends to other countries in the region with newborns welcome to WWRC for treatment as well as selected cases transferred for treatment abroad if needed.
Dr. Abounahia says the successful program is being run by trained and skilled NICU physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists in collaboration with the Ambulance Service team using state-of-the-art intensive care ambulances. He thanks all the teams for their great work and dedication to the program.