Birth Injuries Being Reduced by Hospitals’ Safety Initiative

A group of 14 hospitals in various states have been engaged, for the past four years, in a concentrated effort to try out new safety measures surrounding the delivery of newborn babies. For California parents, the result of these efforts so far present both a hopeful message for the future and a troubling one for the present.

The hospitals engaged in the safety initiative have so far managed to reduce the occurrence of a number of common birth injuries by anywhere from 5.4 percent to a huge 25 percent. But not a single hospital involved in the effort is located in California.

Every year, four million precious little babies are delivered in hospitals in this nation. Statistics currently show that around 9 out of every 100 births involve some kind of problem which may give rise to an injury. Medical experts say that it is likely that as many as 30 percent of these adverse occurrences could be eliminated, given the proper precautions. So far, the hospitals involved in the safety initiate have seemingly borne out that prediction.

Poor communication among doctors and other medical staff members, it turns out, is the absolutely number one cause of adverse events impacting on the lives and health of babies during delivery and immediately after. The safety initiative set its sights especially on trying to reduce the number of deliveries involving birth asphyxia or other serious birth injuries, many of which can cause a child to suffer neurological disability of a permanent nature.

The hospitals engaged in this effort put medical personnel through enhanced training efforts, including drills featuring play-acting “patients” or mannequins to work on improving communication among staff members and upping reaction time to common problems that can arise during the birth of a child. Doctors also stepped up their efforts to more accurately estimate the weight of a fetus before trying to administer medication such as oxytocin for the purpose of bringing on labor in a more rapid manner.

What the hospitals soon learned is that going through these practice drills helped the medical staff cope with actual deliveries – and emergencies that arise during them – in a more professional and skilled manner. In one instance, a practice drill involved having a pregnant nurse act as a patient, with the medical staff addressing what to do if there is a situation where the umbilical chord has exited the uterus before the newborn baby. This scenario, termed a prolapsed cord, can sometimes tragically result in a baby dying during delivery. In this instance, the practice drill better prepared the doctors and nurses to quickly react and take the appropriate steps to save the child’s life when just such a situation happened at the hospital during an actual delivery the very next day.

Hospitals involved in the safety initiative reduced cases of birth hypoxia and asphyxia by 25 percent, lowering significantly cases in which babies suffered brain damage from a lack of oxygen. They also experienced an overall 15 percent reduction in injuries to babies from complications related to the administration of anesthesia, and recorded a 5.4 percent drop in postpartum hemorrhage. These results will undoubtedly cause some California parents to question why hospitals in this state are not yet involved in this effort.

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