The Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH)-Omdurman Maternity Hospital (OMH) partnership began as an idea in 2002 when two paediatricians and a neonatal nurse, all from Cork, taught the Neonatal Resuscitation Programme in Khartoum to 90 providers and 28 instructors, including midwives and doctors. It was then suggested that CUMH should make some contributions to the developing world, focusing particularly on hospitals and services with which CUMH could partner. The cooperation between these two maternity hospitals has continued for 10 years, and in recognition of the superb work that has already been accomplished the Cork-Omdurman partnership received an award for Excellence in Healthcare Management at the 2009 Irish Healthcare Awards. The partnership joined ESTHER Ireland in February 2013.
Khartoum was chosen as a partner in recognition of the large number of Sudanese doctors who have contributed to Irish maternity services, two of whom were in senior positions in Obstetrics and Neonatology in Cork. They were the key-link between the Cork and Sudanese partners and contributed enormously to the success of the project.
Maternal Mortality in Sudan is two-hundred-fold higher and infant mortality is 15 times that of Ireland (68 versus 5 per thousand live births). Perinatal mortality (38 per 1000 births) and neonatal (30 per 1000 live births) mortality rates in OMH are 10 times that in Ireland.
The partnership aimed to improve maternal and perinatal outcomes and has been associated with an 86 per cent reduction in maternal mortality and a 50 per cent drop in stillbirths and early neonatal deaths at Omdurman Maternity Hospital (OMH) in Sudan.
Objectives of the Cork-Omdurman Partnership are:
- Objective 1: Develop an international healthcare partnership model in Mother and Child care, which can be replicated elsewhere.
- Objective 2: Develop a bilateral education and research programme to identify pertinent factors relating to infant and maternal mortality and assess different intervention strategies.
- Objective 3: Implement evidence based and efficient obstetrics and gynaecology, neonatal and midwifery clinical practice to reduce maternal and perinatal mortality.
- Objective 4: Develop existing fistula services and a new urogynaecology centre in OMH.
- Objective 5: Significantly improve the Omdurman Maternity Hospital facilities and hygiene (e.g. buildings, waste management, infection control, computers, IT, etc.).
The CUH contribution included the gift of not-new, but functioning beds, warmers, incubators and other equipment, from the 3 maternity hospitals in Cork following their amalgamation in 2007. In addition over 20 HSE staff members from CUMH participated in ten multidisciplinary teams educational team visits to Sudan, facilitating workshops on newborn resuscitation, obstetrical emergencies and other educational sessions. Health professionals who travelled to the OMH included midwives, neonatal nurses, consultants, emergency medical technicians and biomedical technicians.
The project was implemented with a capital grant from Irish Aid, which was matched by the Sudanese Ministry of Health (MOH) structural investment in the hospital. The MOH built a new special care baby unit, a new maternity wing and a new general laboratory. Other measures improved areas such as waste management, infection control and information technology. The data-driven systems changes initiated by the OMH project team focused on implementing a number of evidence-based practices in the management of pre-eclampsia, maternal haemorrhage, multi-disciplinary teamwork and communication.
A new initiative under the partnership is Helping Babies Breathe (HBB). HBB is an intervention tool to help reduce stillbirth rates, neonatal mortality, and improve intact survival. It was specifically designed to be easily incorporated along with other ongoing maternal and newborn care initiatives and strategies, such as the WHO programme, Integra.