The Baylor College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Texas Children’s Global Women’s Health Initiative, in partnership with the Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation-Malawi, are increasing global health efforts in Malawi with a new maternity operating room in the capital city of Lilongwe.
A bricklaying ceremony was held May 2 for the new four-room operating suite, which is located at Lilongwe’s Area 25 Health Center. The operating theater will expand the capacity of the Area 25 Health Center to deliver comprehensive maternity care.
“The addition of a new operating theater at Area 25 will greatly improve our ability to deliver lifesaving care to mothers and babies,” said Dr. Jeffrey Wilkinson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and vice chair of global health obstetrics and gynecology at Texas Children’s Hospital. “Through generous philanthropic support, we plan to further expand in the near future with a new mother-baby unit. The opportunities for high-quality healthcare and education of Malawian health professionals is unparalleled.”
Area 25 Health Center offers obstetric services to women living in the surrounding rural areas as an alternative to delivery at the Lilongwe central or district hospitals. The center provides labor and delivery services, a maternity waiting home for prenatal housing and care, pharmacy and family planning and nutrition counseling.
One of the primary causes of pregnancy and childbirth complications is delay in access to care, so outlying healthcare centers that allow patients to receive quality care without traveling into central areas are an important part of obstetric care in Lilongwe, Wilkinson said. In addition, he noted that the ability to provide care for low-risk deliveries at the Area 25 Health Center makes more space available for high-risk patients at Kamuzu Central Hospital and reduces wait times for all patients.
However, the missing piece of the Area 25 Health Center has been a surgical theater to perform caesarean deliveries. About 15 to 20 percent of women will require cesarean delivery for obstructed labor or for concerns about the well-being of the unborn child. Healthcare providers in Area 25 are forced to send these women by ambulance to the central hospital, and if an ambulance is not available or traffic is heavy, it can take many hours to reach the hospital with potentially devastating consequences for both mother and baby.
“The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital is proud to play a role in the expansion of facilities and services at the Area 25 Health Center in Lilongwe, Malawi,” said Dr. Michael Belfort, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor and ob/gyn-in-chief at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. “We are eager to see this collaboration with Malawi succeed and be a model for high-quality maternal healthcare and education in this region.”
The new operating theater expands on the longstanding public-private partnership between the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) and the Malawi Ministry of Health. The Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation-Malawi operates the Baylor College of Medicine-Abbott Fund Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence in Lilongwe, provides staff to support the pediatric ward at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, works in four busy government health centers in other areas of Lilongwe, including the Area 25 Health Center, and performs clinical and training outreach across the country.