Dubai: It may be one of the most important doctor appointments in a child’s life. Follow-up appointments for babies within 48 hours of birth is critical for identifying any potential health problems, doctors at a Dubai hospital say.

Latifa Hospital’s follow-up system for mandatory newborn screening, for example, is a success, said a senior health official at the facility.

Dr Muna Tahlak, CEO of Latifa Hospital, said that it is mandatory for all newborns to undergo health screenings 48 hours after birth.

“The follow-up system was implemented to assist parents of newborn babies who are discharged earlier than 48 hours to get their babies screened. The initiative has been successful and the hospital has received positive feedback from parents. The follow-up was implemented at the start of 2014 and has ensured that every baby born at Latifa Hospital in 2014 was screened after 48 hours of birth,” she said in a statement issued by the Dubai Health Authority on Tuesday.

“As part of the follow-up system an appointment is booked online with DHA’s primary healthcare centre for babies who are discharged before 48 hours. We also provide mothers with an option of returning to the hospital if the 48-hour screening date falls on a weekend. To guarantee 100 per cent compliance with this initiative statistics are generated on a monthly basis and follow-up calls are made to the mothers to ensure the baby has been screened.”

Dr Muna said that mothers with a newborn baby often are so busy and tired that they may forget to return to hospital in time and therefore the hospital has adopted such a stringent follow-up policy.

“This screening is absolutely essential. The newborn screening test can tell you if your baby has any hereditary or hormonal problems. Most of the diseases which we screen for during the first week of birth are treatable diseases which means if we diagnose it early on, treatment is very simple and the child can lead a normal life. But if it goes undiagnosed, children can have complications such as growth retardation, mental retardation and the child loses all chances of having a normal life.

“For example, in the case of congenital hypothyroidism, which is underactive thyroid glands, the treatment is as simple as giving a drop of thyroxine. If this baby does not get the treatment in the first week or two, the baby will be mentally retarded. However, if you just screen, diagnose and treat, the baby will lead a normal life.”

In the last six months, through this screening, Latifa Hospital detected and treated seven cases of congenital hypothyroidism and three cases of congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

“These children now have an opportunity to lead a normal life and that’s why it is so important for us as a health-care provider to go the extra mile and ensure that every baby born at the hospital undergoes this screening.”

Dr Mahmoud Saleh Al Halik, Consultant Neonatologist and Head of Paediatric Department at Latifa Hospital, said: “Newborn screening tests are generally painless and non-invasive and can detect up to 39 congenital diseases. A clinician draws a small amount of blood from the baby’s heel and sends the sample to a newborn screening lab for testing. If any of the results are positive, treatment is administered immediately specific to the condition detected. Treatment may include a special diet, hormones, and/or medications. However, it is essential to start the treatment as soon as possible to ensure the baby can lead a normal life.

Newborns are screened for diseases including Glucose 6 Phosphate Dehydrogenase (G6PH), cystic fibrosis, biotinidase, thalassaemia, sickle cell disease, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, congenital hypothyroidism and phenylketonuria.

He added that the hospital’s aim is to ensure 100 per cent compliance so that every child has an opportunity to lead a normal life.