Background: While child mortality is declining in Africa there has been no evidence of a comparable reduction in neonatal mortality. The quality of inpatient neonatal care is likely a contributing factor but data from resource limited settings are few. The objective of this study was to assess the quality of neonatal care in the district hospitals of the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania.
Methods: Clinical records were reviewed for ill or premature neonates admitted to 13 inpatient health facilities in the Kilimanjaro region; staffing and equipment levels were also assessed.
Results: Among the 82 neonates reviewed, key health information was missing from a substantial proportion of records: on maternal antenatal cards, blood group was recorded for 52 (63.4%) mothers, Rhesus (Rh) factor for 39 (47.6%), VDRL for 59 (71.9%) and HIV status for 77 (93.1%). From neonatal clinical records, heart rate was recorded for3 (3.7%) neonates, respiratory rate in 14, (17.1%) and temperature in 33 (40.2%). None of 13 facilities had a functioning premature unit despite calculated gestational age <36 weeks in 45.6% of evaluated neonates. Intravenous fluids and oxygen were available in 9 out of 13 of facilities, while antibiotics and essential basic equipment were available in more than two thirds. Medication dosing errors were common; under-dosage for ampicillin, gentamicin and cloxacillin was found in 44.0%, 37.9% and 50% of cases, respectively, while over-dosage was found in 20.0%, 24.2% and 19.9%, respectively. Physician or assistant physician staffing levels by the WHO indicator levels (WISN) were generally low.
Conclusion: Key aspects of neonatal care were found to be poorly documented or incorrectly implemented in this appraisal of neonatal care in Kilimanjaro. Efforts towards quality assurance and enhanced motivation of staff may improve outcomes for this vulnerable group.