Though the issue of deteriorating maternal health has been clawing at Guyana’s progress rate, with 11 maternal deaths already being recorded for the first half of the present year; United Nations agencies remain positive, looking instead at the health sector’s advancements in this area.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)’s Programme Officer in Guyana, Babsie Persaud-Giddings, the nation has received much support from the UN, towards improving maternal health and, in turn, maternal mortality rates.
She zeroed in on the Maternal Health Thematic Fund (MTHF), a UNFPA-supported programme which assessed all health facilities in 2010 to “ascertain where the issues are and to identify the gaps and upgrades needed” in order to improve the capacity of those facilities in providing emergency obstetric and newborn care (EmONC).
Persaud-Giddings said that though there have already been some upgrades in the area, “not enough” has been done and thus, there is still need for improvement. She made known that the Ministry of Health has been working along with UNFPA, at various levels, to address the areas identified for upgrading, including administrative facilities.
“They have done a lot of work with UNFPA and PAHO in terms of training doctors and midwives, training of anesthetic services as well as working with midwives through the Midwives and Doctors Association.”
One such training exercise includes the ALARM (Advanced Labour and Risk Management) programme which, according to the Programme Officer, provides support for doctors and nurses “on what to do when an emergency happens.”
She noted that results of the assessment showed that many hospitals operating in the region “do not have the facilities to provide all the functions for emergencies”, hence, much support is being dedicated to upgrading those facilities and the capacity of the staff.
Speaking of the sector’s achievements, Persaud-Giddings pointed out that the capacity of the Guyana Midwifery Association has now received international status since they were accredited by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM). As a result, they can now participate in international conferences and training workshops.
Commenting on the steady bouts of difficulties faced in the sector, the Programme Officer opined that a revision of the actions that midwives are legally authorised to perform can aid in improving the current maternal heath rate.
“There are some things that nurses or midwives cannot do because they do not have the legal authorisation. If during a birth, the placenta is not coming out, the midwife can easily reach in and help it. But they don’t have that authorisation. Only a doctor or a gynaecologist can do that,” she explained.
She added that of the challenges that remain in progressing to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG)-5, which aims to improve maternal health, Guyana needs to concentrate on retaining trained midwives and continue to upgrade health facilities to “basic and comprehensive levels”, while increasing the availability of necessary infrastructure and materials such as blood.
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