By ELIZABETH MIAE
MORE women in Papua New Guinea are now dying during childbirth compared with 10 years ago, statistics have revealed.
The grim situation in the country’s maternal health has captured the attention of foreign agencies and non governmental organisations.
“That reveals deep seated problems in the country’s health system,” head of World Vision Australia Tim Costello told the Australia Network News.
“If you have high maternal death rates then the whole health system is failing because it’s the whole system of blood transfusions, transport to get there, of referrals and when you are in hospital, the right drugs, the caesarean operation can it be done safely and there’s theatre equipment,” Mr Costello said.
“And you know the barriers are actually getting women to go because culture says birth is normal in your village, why would you go to hospital,” he added.
His concern was supported by leading PNG gynecologist, Dr Glen Mola, who stressed that while things were getting better for women in other parts of the world, PNG was heading in the opposite direction.
Dr Mola provided statistics from the 2006 demographic health survey which revealed that the risk of dying in pregnancy in PNG had doubled over the past 10years.
“The proportion of women achieving some kind of decent supervision and care when they are delivering their babies was going down.
“More than 60% of women used to have professional supervision and care for labour and delivery in the 1970s and 1980s, but since the 1990s, it has gone below 50% and last year only 36% of women were able to access professional care and supervision when they gave birth,” he said.
“Our rural health services are in a state of collapse and our politicians do not have the political will to do anything about it.
“They seem to be only interested in themselves and prestige projects that they think will make them look good in the next election-like the expensive hospital project for the elite in urban areas.”
Dr Mola said at both the provincial hospitals and the Port Moresby General Hospital (POMGH), there was poor support from the Government, adding the hospital did not have a budget to employ the minimum number of staff to keep the place clean and look after the patients.
“We run out of basic supplies almost every day and have to beg NGOs, business houses and people of goodwill to help us just to keep things going, while our politicians take themselves either to private clinics or overseas to get all their health care,” he said.
“The cost of running the politicians’ Falcon jet would be sufficient to enable the POMGH do critical renovations, repair equipment that has broken down, buy new supplies, hire cleaners and nurses to look after the hospital”.