The National, Monday October 14th, 2013
AUSTRALIA has given an emergency telephone hotline to help save the lives of mothers and babies in Milne Bay.
The Childbirth Emergency Phone Project was launched as a pilot project last October to help reduce the country’s high maternal death rate.
It is estimated that it claims up to 1,500 mothers’ lives every year.
The Milne Bay Provincial Health Authority has successfully tried out the service, which connected remote health workers to staff at the Alotau Provincial Hospital, which provides advice for emergency obstetric cases.
The authority will take over the funding and operation of the 24-hour hotline.
It has dealt with 117 obstetric cases in the past seven months associated with complicated and emergency childbirth.
The head of AusAID in PNG, Stuart Schaefer, said the handover was good for healthcare workers, women and families in the province.
“The commitment of the health workers and the provincial health authority will ensure the hotline is sustainable,” Schaefer said.
“We are proud to have partnered with the PNG Government to grow this service, which started as an idea by Professor Glen Mola at the University of PNG,” he said.
“Improving maternal and child health is a priority focus of Australia’s support to PNG. PNG approves the priorities for Australian aid.
“We are increasing the number of trained midwives, supervised births and the use of family planning – all proven methods to save the lives of mothers’ and babies’ in Miline Bay.”
The hotline covers more than 40 health centres and 147 aid posts including many in remote areas where there are no specialist staff.
Alotau hospital staff have been trained in using the hotline.
Rural health facilities are provided with solar mobile phone chargers, maternal health books and standard treatment manuals.
Milne Bay Provincial Health Authority chief executive officer Billy Naidi said specialist advice saved lives.
“In one instance, when a mother went into premature labour, a doctor talked the village nurse through performing a simple manoeuvre which ultimately saved the life of a mother and child,” Naidi said.
“Communication is a major factor in hindering development so we must sustain this service.
“We are committed to continuing it for our hundreds of health workers based on islands and in remote locations.
“The hotline is building relationships between health workers.
“So Alotau staff are getting to know what’s happening out there in the rural facilities.”
The addition of an Australian-funded obstetrician to the hospital’s staff will further improve the advice provided through the hotline.
Government chief secretary Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc said the service was the first of its kind in the country.
“The Government is interested in exploring the potential use of mobile phones in service delivery, development efforts and innovative ways to address health issues,” Sir Manasupe said.