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This article was originally published by the Times of India here.

In a paradigm shift in healthcare, ailing newborns will not be separated from their mothers at government hospitals in UP. The first Mother Newborn Care Unit or MNCU is coming up at Badaun district hospital. Till now, a sick baby was kept under intensive care in the neonatal wing, often far from the mother’s bed. “Now, a number of states are developing MNCUs, but UP is the frontrunner,” said Dr PK Prabhakar, deputy commissioner (child health), Union ministry of health and family welfare.

“The only comparison can be the Mother Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (M-NICU) at Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi,” said Dr Vishwajeet Kumar, founder of Community Empowerment Lab, the scientific and innovation partner. He added the MNCU at Badaun would help save more lives with lesser investment.

The MNCU will have equipment for babies along with all facilities the mother needs. It will be linked to an app to help nurses and paediatricians to ensure all patient care protocols are followed.

“The babies will not be separated from their mothers unless there is a strong medical reason to do so. In case of separation too, the mother will be in the next room and not far like in another building, which normally is the case,” said chief development officer, Badaun, Nisha Anant who is supervising the project.

Citing relevant medical literature, health officials reiterated that the facility would help save more babies. “Newborns kept with their mothers in Kangaroo Mother Care Units as compared to incubators have a 40% higher rate of survival and 70% lower chance of infection and hypothermia,” said Pankaj Kumar, state director of National Health Mission, which will develop MNCUs in all districts of UP.

The concept of MNCU came up after an assessment of sick newborn care units in different states. “One common problem noticed was that there was no uniformity in layout. In addition, there were no facilities for mothers of referred babies,” said the Government of India order on the issue.