Objective: To assess the structural capacity for, and quality of, immediate and essential newborn care (ENC) in health facilities in rural Ghana, and to link this with demand for facility deliveries and admissions.
Design: Health facility assessment survey and population-based surveillance data.
Setting: Seven districts in Brong Ahafo Region, Ghana.
Participants: Heads of maternal/neonatal wards in all 64 facilities performing deliveries.
Main outcome measures: Indicators include: the availability of essential infrastructure, newborn equipment and drugs, and personnel; vignette scores and adequacy of reasons given for delayed discharge of newborn babies; and prevalence of key immediate ENC practices that facilities should promote. These are matched to the percentage of babies delivered in and admitted to each type of facility.
Results: 70% of babies were delivered in health facilities; 56% of these and 87% of neonatal admissions were in four referral level hospitals. These had adequate infrastructure, but all lacked staff trained in ENC and some essential equipment (including incubators and bag and masks) and/or drugs. Vignette scores for care of very low-birth-weight babies were generally moderate-to-high, but only three hospitals achieved high overall scores for quality of ENC. We estimate that only 33% of babies were born in facilities capable of providing high quality, basic resuscitation as assessed by a vignette plus the presence of a bag and mask. Promotion of immediate ENC practices in facilities was also inadequate, with coverage of early initiation of breastfeeding and delayed bathing both below 50% for babies born in facilities; this represents a lost opportunity.
Conclusions: Unless major gaps in ENC equipment, drugs, staff, practices and skills are addressed, strategies to increase facility utilisation will not achieve their potential to save newborn lives.
Trial registration: http://clinicaltrials.gov NCT00623337.
Keywords: Epidemiology; Neonatology; Public health.