The Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) has as at July 2018, screened 4, 514 new-borns for Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), under the first phase of a pilot programme launched in June 2017.

Professor Kwaku Ohene-Frimpong, the President of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana, explained that out of those screened, 74 were found to be positive to the SCD, however, 55 representing 75 per cent of these babies have since been successfully enrolled into the special newborn clinic at the hospital for follow up care.

Prof. Ohene-Frimpong who was speaking at a dissemination meeting in Accra on Friday, on the pilot programme on New-born Screening for the SCD at the KBTH, said the initial phase, was to screen at least 4,000 babies born at the hospital, and ensure that all others identified with the disease were enrolled into the paediatric sickle cell clinic for systematic and comprehensive follow up care.

He, however, stated that even though new-born screening for SCD in Ghana started over 20 years ago in selected health facilities in the Ashanti Region with a total of about 500,000 babies already screened, scale-up of the National New-born Screening Programme to hospitals had not occurred since its launch in 2010.

He said in Ghana, one in every 50 children were born with SCD, and an estimated 50 to 90 per cent of them were likely to die before age five, if undiagnosed, however, many of these deaths could be averted through easily delivered interventions such as newborn screening, parental education and prevention of life-threatening infections with medication such as penicillin prophylaxis.

Prof. Ohene-Frimpong said it was very worrying that it had taken Ghana 22 years to cover between two to three per cent of children with SCD, meaning, a lot more are being denied of the quality care without screening because they had not been reached.

The intervention, he said, had become very necessary owing to the number of babies born with SCD and its devastating socio-economic and health implications both to the individuals, their families and the nation at large.

New-born screening programmes, he said, was key in identifying babies with SCD as early as possible so they could receive treatment and have the best possible chance of avoiding major disease complications.

He said the second phase of the programme would hence, consolidate the gains by targeting universal screening of all babies born in the KBTH and improving clinical infrastructure and staffing.

He thanked the management and staff of the KBTH for their support and immense contributions over the years towards the screening of babies, and also the partnerships of Pfizer, the Global Sickle Cell Disease Network, as well as the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR).

Prof. Bamenla Goka, the Project Sponsor, KBTH, outlined some of the achievements so far citing the institution of an Oversight Committee, trained over 100 nurses to competently perform screening, the development of clinical guidelines for new-born SCD clinic, and ensuring that all babies were enrolled commenced on penicillin prophylaxis.

Dr Cathy Segbefia, the Medical Lead at the KBTH, said there had been an increased in knowledge, improved competences of both doctors, nurses and midwives in new-born screening, but called for expanded coverage aiming at 100 per cent.

She also pleaded for improved funding and logistics, more trained personnel, accurate and sustained documentation, as well as the timely delivery of results by the NMIMR, and also for strengthened collaboration with all other institutions to ensure total access and coverage of all new-borns.