“No woman should die while giving birth, irrespective of where she is,” says Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence.
The Minister was at the time responding to questions asked by members of the media on the sidelines of Monday’s sitting of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC). She stated then that the Ministry of Public Health is currently taking steps to reduce the maternal death rate, with actions identified for the short, medium and long term.
“I know that prior to me becoming Minister of Public Health there have been attempts to redress this issue of maternal mortality. We thought we had moved forward last year but we did not, we missed a few things, as a result of that, this year there was a discussion specifically on us putting our resources together to come up with a plan because no woman should be dying in giving life irrespective of where she is,” Lawrence said.
“Last week we met for three days at Aruwai with some specialists brought in by PAHO/WHO and all of our personnel from GPHC, the private sector and the Ministry of Public Health and we came out with two plans, one in which we will address maternal mortality, and we have been able to put that plan into three-pronged effect, some of the things we are going to do immediately, some of the things we are going to do in the medium term and in the long term basis,” she added.
According to the Minister, they are cognizant that most of the maternal-death victims are indigenous women who reside in far flung areas and are looking to implement new methods to combat this.
“…With the experts both locally and overseas we have decided that we are going to use some new methodologies which are out there; we are going to be purchasing very quickly, some new drugs and also some new kits that can be used for compressing and ensuring that haemorrhage is stymied,” Lawrence added.
She further noted that the Ministry is working to bring in the supplies within the next few months so that they will be available for what they consider to be “peak season.”
“We know that what we call the peak season begins somewhere around October/ November and we want to ensure that in the next couple of months we work to get those things here and ensure that they are placed in those far-flung areas and in Region Four so that we can be able to address any situation that arise[s]. Having said that, I want you to use your media to call on mothers to come to the centres, it doesn’t matter whether you have seven or eight children before, just come because we are learning that every pregnancy is different from the other so don’t take the chance and stay home because you are an experienced mother. Please come out,” the Minister implored.
In answer to a question asked about whether she believes the deaths occur as a result of “personal issues,” the Minister said, “A lot has to do with where the woman is; the roads are impassable, they have to go long distances, she is traveling on an ATV, and you know all of those are some things we have to look at.”
“…we have started these maternal waiting homes where we bring the women to these and we take care of them until they deliver and we have found that it is safer than bringing her when she is ready to deliver or when she is already in a crisis and we are also going to work with the home attendants because most times these woman are in the hands of a home attendant or a family member because that’s tradition and it’s been going on for a long time,” Lawrence explained.
“What we are going to do is work with the home attendants and give them an incentive for every woman they bring to the centre to encourage them. We will allow them to do their traditional birthing but under the supervision of a practitioner so that’s what we want to do,” she further added.
Stabroek News understands that in addition to the issue of maternal death, the team had also discussed the matter of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and how they can lower the rate at which it occurs.
“The other we looked at was transmission of HIV to the babies and how we can ensure that we tighten that loop. We are not doing too badly but we should be in a better place right now. We are moving towards the elimination of that; our target is 2020 and so we recognize that we have to address those gaps if we want to achieve our objectives and once again we have started working on a plan for that and so now we must start implementing those…” the Minister said.