AUSTRALIAN parentscan take for granted the quality of care they receive when it comes time to expand their families.
The standard of care for pregnant women can be vastly different in other countries, but some Bathurst midwives are doing their bit to help close the gap.
For the past four years, Carla Cromie, Melissa Grabham, Tammy Stewart and Amy Turnbull have been making trips to Vanuatu to provide extra support to maternity wards on both the north and south islands.
All four midwives work at Bathurst Base Hospital and travel overseas during their annual leave.
They fund the trips themselves and work voluntarily, although they are supported by the Medical Santo Clinic, a Queensland-supported voluntary aid organisation based in Vanuatu, in finding accommodation and organising registration.
But money doesn’t matter in this case. Their decision to go is driven by their desire to support new mothers, to educate and improve the standard of care provided to women and newborns.
“A bunch of like-minded people wanted to address the global shortage of midwives and assist maternity care provision in developing countries,” Ms Cromie said.
The midwives spend between two and three weeks in Vanuatu, working between 14 and 16 days in a row in shifts that lasting more than 12 hours.
“It’s incredibly busy, the working conditions are harsh compared to Australia,” Ms Cromie said.
At Bathurst Base Hospital, there are approximately 500 births per year with the support of over 30 midwives and doctors.
But in Northern Provincial Hospital in Luganville, Vanuatu, there are between 1500 and 2000 births each years with just five midwives.
Women also don’t spend much time in the Vanuatu hospital, usually leaving within 24 hours of giving birth.
“It’s very confronting to see the health care standards over there and not be able to deliver the same level of health care [as in Australia],” Ms Cromie said.
The Bathurst midwives can take limited equipment with them, like thermometers and infant resuscitation bags, and that equipment – combined with their expertise – has saved lives that may have otherwise been lost.
While going overseas is no holiday for these hardworking midwives, they are proud of what they are able to achieve and intend to keep making trips to Vanuatu.
“It’s an amazing personal and clinical growth experience that is as full of challenges as it is rewards,” Ms Cromie said.
“We are privileged to be welcomed into a maternity unit of a different culture that speaks a different language and embraced as midwives to assist women to birth babies.”