Hamad Medical Corp. is mulling plans to discharge most mothers and their newborn babies within 16 hours of delivery, with nurses carrying out follow-up home visits, the Qatar Tribune reports.
The new policy, which would only apply to natural births without complications, is designed to reduce pressure on the hospital’s services, according to Heila Jawhar, assistant executive director of Nursery Administration.
As the country’s largest and most affordable healthcare provider, HMC sees more than 50 births a day.
Speaking to Qatar Tribune, Jawhar said:
“The hospital is facing a severe shortage of nurses. And the number of beds at the hospital is not keeping pace with the growth of the population.”
The new system – which is apparently set to be introduced at the beginning of next year – is a big re-think of HMC’s current policy, which allows mothers and their babies to stay in the hospital for at least two days after a natural birth, and at least four days after a cesarean section.
Currently, Qatar’s state healthcare system does not offer post-natal home visits.
HMC did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Doha News, but Jawhar told the Qatar Tribune that HMC had given the plan its approval, and that the required team of nurses was currently being assembled.
The nurses will visit each mother at home four times after the birth, assessing the health needs of the mother and infant, and focus on advising first-time mothers of how to take care of their babies, she said. If either the mother or child needs to be re-admitted to hospital, the nurse will arrange this, she added.
The new rules do no apply to complicated natural births. Mothers who have had cesarean sections will still be allowed to remain in the hospital as long as doctors deem necessary.
Many other countries release mothers soon after giving birth, and conduct home visits to ensure the health of their patient and the baby. But HMC’s 16-hour target appears to be on the shorter end.
In the UK, for example, mothers can expect to remain in the hospital for one night following a normal birth, one to two days following an “instrumental” delivery (one involving medical assistance) and three days after a cesarean section.
In Australia, the current length of a postnatal hospital stay is 2.7 days, down from 5.3 days in the early 1990s.
In Canada, new mothers are usually in hospital for two days following a routine vaginal delivery, and around four days after a cesarean.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the US have gone as far as enacting legislation to protect the rights of mothers to remain in hospital post-birth, should they wish.
The Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act of 1996 requires insurance plans to pay for at least a 48-hour hospital stay following childbirth, or a 96-hour stay in the case of a cesarean section.
Home visits worldwide
HMC’s home visiting plan is similar to the UK’s NHS post-natal care strategy, under which midwives carry out home visits the day after discharge and up to 28 days after birth, if deemed necessary.
Research has found that frequent home visits can help improve parenting skills, increase the detection of postnatal depression, and reduce the risk of childhood injury.
The US, by contrast, offers no routine post-natal home visits, but opt-in schemes are proving increasingly popular, according to researchers.
Australia also offers home visits, but according to Patrice Hickey from the Australian College of Midwives, only one or two visits are typically offered due to financial pressures, leaving mothers without much-needed consistent support:
”The World Health Organisation says women need postnatal support for two to six weeks. When you talk to women they just want to be able to ring someone at 11 o’clock at night and say, ‘how do I stop this screaming baby, what do I do now?’ and know that the midwife’s coming … They just want help when they need it.”