Life-saving medicine for premature babies in Zimbabwe

NIAGARA FALLS (April 1, 2014) -The last time Dr. Artaj Singh visited Zimbabwe, he came back to Canada eager to obtain a special medicine that is used to help pre-term babies survive.


“Dr. Greg Powell, Neonatologist at Zimbabwe’s Harare General Hospital, had told me that they lose many pre-term babies because their lung function is not developed enough and having lung surfactant could help address this,” said Dr. Singh, Lead Physician at Primary Care Niagara. “I was very motivated to return to the country with this medicine.”


Dr. Singh, Board Chair of HPIC, a relief and development organization dedicated to increasing access to medicine and improving health in the developing world, was able to bring 40 precious vials of lung surfactant to Dr. Powell’s hospital, which is run by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, this month.


“The neonatal staff are delighted and can’t wait to utilize the surfactant on some premature babies,” wrote Dr. Powell in an email to Dr. Singh and HPIC. “This has never been done in a government hospital before so it will be quite something.”


Dr. Singh expects that it will be able to save the lives of 30 premature babies. “This is really addressing the needs of a vulnerable community. Dr. Powell told me that the drug is prohibitively expensive and not always available.”


Once Dr. Singh had confirmation of the donation, he planned a leave from his busy family practice in Niagara Falls with Primary Care Niagara and hopped on a plane. The medicine has to be kept at a controlled temperature so everything had to line up just right for his trip to Zimbabwe.


“Everything went according to plan and now these babies will have a chance at life,” Dr. Singh said. “The neonatal ICU expects to be using the medicine in the next month once they can get ventilators set up for their little patients.”


Dr. Singh took this medicine through HPIC’s Special Physician Request program. The SPR program allows Canadian doctors and medical specialists to request specific medicine they need for a volunteer mission to the developing world.