Health professional and visitors looking at medical equipment by GE at the 7th Arab International Neonatal Care conference in Dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Of the 5,500 babies born at the Latifa Hospital annually, nearly 20 per cent are born preterm, said a Dubai Health Authority (DHA) official on the sidelines of the 7th Arab Neonatal Conference on Thursday.

The three-day conference has brought together neonatologists, paediatricians, researchers, nurses and other health-care professionals to exchange international expertise and recent updates with regional practices.

Dr Khalid Mohammad Al Atawi, consultant neonatologist at Latifa Hospital and president of the event, said: “A high incidence of preterm [babies] could be attributed to the diverse nationalities in Dubai, more and more young couples opting for In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and also the fact that Latifa Hospital, being one of the most advanced maternity and neonatal hospitals, attracting all the challenging cases.”

Dr Al Atawi said one of the most crucial life-saving factors in preterm babies who are born as early as even 23 weeks was the ‘golden hour’ after their birth. “In this one hour, it is vital to mimic the intra-uterine environment for the baby until it is shifted to the incubator under the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). At Latifa Hospital, we follow all significant aspects of protocol such as maintaining the temperature of the newborn, minimum handling of the baby, preventing any lung trauma to the baby by using only external ventilators and minimum use of external oxygen. These and many other factors contribute towards saving precious lives. Two months ago, following these protocols, we were able to discharge a baby weighing only 420gm at birth, born at 23 weeks, after it recovered in the NICU.”

The conference was inaugurated by Humaid Mohammad Obaid Al Qatami, chairman of the board and director-general of DHA.

During his opening speech, Al Qatami emphasised the importance of this medical speciality, the contribution of caregivers in the field of prenatal and neonatal medicine and the role of universities, research centres, health institutions, hospitals and international organisations and bodies that aim at providing a better life for both the child and mother.

According to WHO, three million babies die within the first month after birth. In addition, the organisation highlights the need to provide safe and efficient care for the mother during birth and the baby especially in the first month, during which the majority of deaths occurs because of prematurity, birth asphyxia and infections.

Al Qatami said this reflects the challenge that directly affects the baby’s health, life, and its impact on the childhood, which represents the core of sustainable human development.

“This applies specifically to DHA facilities including Latifa Hospital, which proudly represents a well-reputed scientific, medical and research institution and which is not only an internationally accredited or a baby-friendly hospital, but also a comprehensive and specialised hospital for the mother and child,” said Al Qatami.