Background: Most of the global neonatal deaths occur in developing nations, mostly in rural homes. Many of the newborns who receive formal medical care are treated in rural district hospitals and other peripheral health centres. However there are no published studies demonstrating trends in neonatal admissions and outcome in rural health care facilities in resource poor regions. Such information is critical in planning public health interventions. In this study we therefore aimed at describing the pattern of neonatal admissions to a Kenyan rural district hospital and their outcome over a 19 year period, examining clinical indicators of inpatient neonatal mortality and also trends in utilization of a rural hospital for deliveries.
Methods: Prospectively collected data on neonates is compared to non-neonatal paediatric (≤ 5 years old) admissions and deliveries' in the maternity unit at Kilifi District Hospital from January 1(st) 1990 up to December 31(st) 2008, to document the pattern of neonatal admissions, deliveries and changes in inpatient deaths. Trends were examined using time series models with likelihood ratios utilised to identify indicators of inpatient neonatal death.
Results: The proportion of neonatal admissions of the total paediatric ≤ 5 years admissions significantly increased from 11% in 1990 to 20% by 2008 (trend 0.83 (95% confidence interval 0.45-1.21). Most of the increase in burden was from neonates born in hospital and very young neonates aged < 7 days. Hospital deliveries also increased significantly. Clinical diagnoses of neonatal sepsis, prematurity, neonatal jaundice, neonatal encephalopathy, tetanus and neonatal meningitis accounted for over 75% of the inpatient neonatal admissions. Inpatient case fatality for all ≤ 5 years declined significantly over the 19 years. However, neonatal deaths comprised 33% of all inpatient death among children aged ≤ 5 years in 1990, this increased to 55% by 2008. Tetanus 256/390 (67%), prematurity 554/1,280(43%) and neonatal encephalopathy 253/778(33%) had the highest case fatality. A combination of six indicators: irregular respiration, oxygen saturation of <90%, pallor, neck stiffness, weight < 1.5 kg, and abnormally elevated blood glucose > 7 mmol/l predicted inpatient neonatal death with a sensitivity of 81% and a specificity of 68%.
Conclusions: There is clear evidence of increasing burden in neonatal admissions at a rural district hospital in contrast to reducing numbers of non-neonatal paediatrics' admissions aged ≤ 5 years. Though the inpatient case fatality for all admissions aged ≤ 5 years declined significantly, neonates now comprise close to 60% of all inpatient deaths. Simple indicators may identify neonates at risk of death.