– credits reduction to $82.3M medical evacuation programme
There have been a dozen confirmed maternal deaths for 2016. At least this was the
figure shared by Senior Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, yesterday as he responded to questions about the number of cases his Ministry has recorded for this year.
The event was the Ministry’s end-of-year press conference hosted at its Brickdam, Georgetown headquarters.
Although the Ministry has clearly recorded the 12 cases up to December 30, 2016, Minister Norton yesterday divulged that there is one other that is still being investigated. This is due to the fact, the Minister said, that “it was a situation where a person who is Guyanese but was living in Suriname, came across to Guyana not fluent in the English Language and so on and died from an increase in blood pressure, but we are still investigating that.”
Even if the Ministry is required to accept the 13th case, its record will show a very notable decline in maternal deaths for the year 2016 when compared to 2015. For the previous year (2015) the Ministry recorded a total of 17 maternal deaths.
Minister Norton yesterday boasted that his Ministry was able to keep its maternal death figures down because of an increase in medical evacuations to ensure that women likely to have problematic pregnancies be swiftly transported to a facility with the capacity to effectively cater to complications that could result in death.
“The number of medical evacuations increased this year because of the Ministry’s position on the transfer of all high risk pregnancies from Hinterland Regions in an effort to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity,” said Minister Norton.
At yesterday’s press conference, he disclosed that “the medical evacuation programme is an initiative implemented for the purpose of providing efficient and safe emergency and transportation service for critically ill patients from the hinterland regions, but not limited to same.”
In 2016, a total of 255 patients benefited from the service and were accommodated on 212 flights at an approximated cost of $82.3million with the month of December still to be completed. But cases of maternity complications were not the only ones accommodated, as according to Minister Norton, victims of snake bites, malaria, gunshot wounds and stab wounds also benefited from medical evacuations.
In 2015, a total of 185 patients who were accommodated on 142 flights at a cost of approximately $66.6 million benefited from medical evacuation services.
Among the additional plans being embraced by the Ministry to sustain efforts to reduce maternal mortality in 2017 will be the execution of an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan for improvement of Maternal and Neonatal Health. This, according to the Minister, will include upgrading measures to the CC Nicholson Hospital and improvements to Maternity Waiting Homes in Regions Four and Nine and the updating of protocols.
Minister Norton also revealed plans to review and update the Family Health Policy even as the public health sector prepares for a Global Evaluation of Vaccine Management and a countrywide introduction of the Human Papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine.
Minister Norton further disclosed plans to monitor Maternal Mortality Surveillance Systems at all hospitals in collaboration with Regional Health Departments. This will be complemented by collaborations with all other departments on management of Zika positive pregnant woman and babies with sequelae (secondary result) of Zika infection, Minister Norton said.
Also sharing the spotlight with Minister Norton on the maternal mortality issue yesterday was Junior Minister of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, who made it clear that the Ministry usually records maternal deaths under categories of direct and in-direct causes.
Indirect causes of maternal mortality, she vocalised, could be linked to pesticides and/or other poisonous substances (used deliberately or not).
Both Ministers acknowledged yesterday that haemorrhaging has long been recognised as one of the most common causes of maternal mortality. High blood pressure is also another leading factor, quipped Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, who was also present at the press conference.
Other technical officials at the press conference yesterday were Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Karen Boyle; Director of Regional Health Services, Dr. Kay Shako; Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ms. Paulette Adams; Focal Point for Adolescent Health, Dr. Oneka Scott; Director of Maternal and Child Health, Dr. Earthanesia Hamilton; Director of the National Blood Bank, Dr. Pedro Lewis and Director of Chronic Diseases, Dr. Kavita Singh.
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