Group Establishes 5-Bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit At UNTH

Odiraa Nwankwor, MD

A non-governmental organization, Health Place for Children Initiative (HPCI) is establishing a five-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) in Enugu State.
In a statement, the Founder of HPCI, Dr. Odiraa Nwankwor, who is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Jefferson University Philadelphia, says they have assembled the required equipment/devices and supplies valued at above two hundred and fifty thousand US dollars ($250,000.00), and have strong support from the hospital leadership under Dr. Obinna Onodugo, the Chief Medical Director.
According to him, “On September 2019, we will begin the initial phase of training of healthcare providers and biomedical personnel. Prof. Tagbo Oguonu, the Head, Children Emergency Room is our clinical anchor for the project.”
He added, “Despite improved immunization, the Under-5 mortality ratio is still high both in Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries. Data from the Nigerian Demographic Health Survey in 2013 suggests that one out of every eight children born in Nigeria will die before their fifth birthday. Majority of the causes of these high mortality rates are either preventable or reversible.
“For Nigeria to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 3.2, a smart comprehensive approach that includes improved immunization, health promotion, provision of prompt acute and critical care services should be promptly adopted. However, the provision of critical care services in organized Pediatric Intensive Care Units is either rudimentary or non-existent in many low and middle-income countries.
“Sadly, in Nigeria today, if a child is in respiratory distress/failure and goes to an emergency room at most of the teaching hospitals, they do not have the capacity to incubate and mechanically ventilate the child. It is on this premise that Health Place for Children Initiative (, is embarking on the ‘PICU Project’ at UNTH, Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu. This is a pilot project, with the goal of upscale to other teaching hospitals in Nigeria. We hope to establish at least one Pediatric ICU at a major teaching hospital in each of the six geo-political regions in Nigeria by the end of 2023, applying the UNTH model.”
However, he said setting up in a PICU in the low-resourced setting will require these five essential elements:
1 Assembling of equipment/devices and medical supplies.
2 Training of healthcare providers (Doctors, Nurses, Respiratory Therapists, etc).
3 Strong support from the hospital leadership.
4 Establishing a pipeline/system of maintenance of the equipment for sustainability.
5 A dedicated financial structure to sustain the clinical operation in the ICU.
The structure of the program goes thus:
A 3-year program starting September 2019- August 2022
An initial training in September 2019 with pre- and post-training assessment using either the Pediatric Fundamental Critical Care Support (PFCCS) Course of the Society of Critical Care (SCCM) or the BASIC Course through the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies (WFPICCS).
Six structured training sessions; including two sessions every year. Each session would include a series of lectures, skill stations, mock codes, etc.
Training of Biomedical personnel at UNTH who could troubleshoot and repair minor mechanical equipment failures.
A financial structure with a revolving fund mechanism to sustain the clinical operations of the PICU.
Collaborations with Pediatric Residency and Pediatric Critical Fellowships programs in the US to use UNTH PICU as a Global Health elective site in Nigeria.
Virtual clinical recommendations where appropriate, through Telemedicine (logistics and confidentiality issues to be worked out)
According to Dr Nwankwor, who is also a Pediatric Intensivist at the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington Delaware and Cooper University Hospital, Camden New Jersey, USA, the expected results include improvement in pediatric critical care delivery among the trained doctors, nurses and other health care workers at UNTH; a functional PICU that meets the health needs of the local communities; and expected improvement in defined outcome measures.
Others are a replication of this model in other tertiary pediatric centers in Nigeria; development of clinical guidelines and protocols in collaboration with the Pediatric Association of Nigeria and the Critical Care Society of Nigeria; and exploring opportunities to collaborate with peers in data collection and sharing in a safe manner. This will help to support best and evidence-based practices.
Dr. Nwankwor is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a Certified Physician Executive. He is an alumnus of the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Enugu Campus and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore USA