As the new Assembly’s winners are grinners, MICHAEL MOORE says we owe a vote of thanks to all the election’s candidates.
HIGH mortality rates of mums and babies at birth in remote parts of Indonesia are what motivates obstetrician Peter Scott and midwife Ann-Maree Parker to volunteer to share their skills around managing emergencies in birth.
The couple will travel in July to West Timor in the Eastern Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT), to help upskill the local health staff through formal teaching and clinical mentoring. It’s Peter’s 16th trip, and Ann-Maree’s second.
“What we teach is actually very simple stuff, but in that context it makes a huge difference,” says Peter. “We show them hands-on ways to respond quickly to emergencies.”
Ann-Maree, a midwife at Calvary Birth Suite, says they teach “hands-on training in midwifery, including neonatal resuscitation, postpartum haemorrhage, shoulder dystocia and breech births”.
Peter says that while the local health workers’ academic knowledge is good, they’re not trained in overcoming fear in emergencies.
“We teach techniques such as bimanual compression and how to estimate blood loss, which can help save women in postpartum haemorrhage,” he says.
“We train midwives to be very hands-on and give very practical training, such as ways to resuscitate flat babies. They also don’t have ultrasounds so breech births are undiagnosed.
“Some emergencies aren’t common, like shoulder dystocia where the baby’s shoulders become stuck, and there isn’t time to go and look in a book.”
The couple work through Adelaide-based charity organisation Flinders Overseas Health Group (FOHG), which has worked to support the region, where people live in poverty and suffer from malnutrition, for many years.
Peter, staff specialist obstetrician at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children, says he heard about the program through a “life-changing phone call” at lunch one day, where an acquaintance called and asked if he would go to West Timor on a clinical trip.
“That first trip changed my attitude as a doctor,” he says.
“Being Australian is an absurd privilege – I studied medicine in 1976 and it was free, a world-class education like that. It gave me a sense of privilege to have been given these skills that can make a difference to people.
“After that first trip, I could see why people go and be Mother Teresa; the rewards are way beyond any money you could make.
“There’s nothing better than seeing someone you’ve taught, showing someone else the same thing the next day. The people take up, skillfully, what we’ve taught them.
“Clinical work is valuable, and you really help the people you see, but teaching has more value in a lot of ways and is more sustainable.”
Ann-Maree agrees. “Coming back from my first trip and seeing the brand-new Centenary Hospital in Canberra was tough for me, and I had to be reminded that women deserve the care they get here, and they do.
“It just makes it all the more special to go to NTT and share our skills.”