Project Medishare prepares opening of new maternal health center
By Jennifer Browning
Jean Vasula, 17, sits with her 2-month-old son Maté at the clinic in Marmont waiting to see the doctor. Here doctors see everything from pediatrics to adult medicine and for now, even provides family planning as well as prenatal and postnatal exams.
Thanks to the Greig Family, who completely funded the construction of the Maternal Health Center, and MedShare who donated all of the medical equipment, women in the Central Plateau are closer to having access to a full package of women’s health services including reproductive health education, family planning, along with HIV/AIDS counseling and testing.
A grant provided by Ralph Lauren is assisting with upstart costs such as staff salaries. Currently, Project Medishare is recruiting and interviewing midwives, nurses and other personnel for the center.
Vasula said while she was pregnant with Maté, she visited the Marmont clinic each month for her prenatal care. She said she is excited that there will be a clinic dedicated to women.
“The new maternal health clinic will be so good for [women in the community],” Vasula said. “Right now, here in Marmont we have to depend on the hospital in Thomonde. If we need a test, we have to go to Thomonde; or if we have any complications we have to go to Thomonde or maybe even further in Hinche. I am glad the maternal center is opening here because it will serve the whole community and all women here will have access.”
In Haiti, and particularly in the Central Plateau, the high rate of maternal mortality remains a challenge. Haiti’s statistics regarding maternal mortality are among the highest in the Caribbean: 1 out of every 37 female deaths is linked to a high-risk pregnancy.
Haiti’s poor suffers by far the highest maternal mortality ratio in the Western Hemisphere. According to UNICEF, out of 100,000 live births, 670 Haitian women died of pregnancy-related causes in 2006.
Familiar with complications that can come with childbirth, Vasula hopes by having a maternal center in the community, less women will lose their babies during birth.
“It will help because with me, I had trouble during my pregnancy,” Vasula, who had her baby in Thomonde, said. “If I had my baby at home like many women do here, I would have lost my baby.
Vasula said when she was going into labor with Mate, she was at home with a mid-wife, but there were complications. Her family found a way to get her to Thomonde where she eventually had a C-section. While the maternal health center won’t be performing surgeries like C-sections, the medical staff there will be able to monitor the delivery and send women like Vasula to Thomonde for emergencies.
Gillef Mieloudes, 33, gave birth to her son Yadley at home. She said she was lucky that she didn’t have any complications.
Mieloude who lives in Denizrad situated between Thomonde and Marmont went to Thomonde for her prenatal checkups each month and planned to give birth at home, with the help of a midwife. But by the time the midwife showed up she had already had the baby.
She said she is happy knowing the maternal health center will open soon so that women in her community will have the services they need.
“When the maternal health center opens, if any women have complications with their pregnancy then they will know that there is a place for us to go,” Mieloude said. “Right now women in my community rely on Thomonde for the things that we need when it comes to our health. It will be so nice to have a place that is for women only.
Jacque Balde, an auxiliary nurse for the Ministry of Health at the Marmont Clinic said there is a lot of interest in the maternal health center.
For now women go to the clinic in Marmont to receive women’s health services, and the new maternal health center will allow the Marmont clinic to focus more on pediatric and adult medicine.
“This is important that the people here will have such service, a good service in their home in Marmont,” he said. “When the maternal health center opens it will allow us to organized the Marmont clinic better so we can focus on pediatric and adult medicine.”
Balde is all too aware of complications that can come with childbirth. A few months ago, his wife suffered from eclampsia and gave birth to their son two months early.
“She gave birth at Hinche but there were no incubators,” he said. “They wrapped up our baby and kept him close to my wife, but at seven months you need an incubator. When I saw the incubator at the maternal health center it made me think of my son. If there had been an incubator at Hinche, it could have saved the life of my child.”
As the field coordinator for Marmont, Balde also organizes Project Medishare’s community health agents to go out into the community. As soon as he gets word that the center will open, it will be his job to educate the community health agents to let people know about the maternal health center and about the updated medical equipment available for the women in the community.
Project Medishare internist, Dr. Gerarde Mondesir said a big problem right now is that many of the women come to the Marmont clinic for their prenatal follow-up, but then they will go give birth somewhere else like Thomonde or in Hinche.
“The doctors and midwives there have never seen them before and have no clue about how their pregnancy has been the past nine months,” she said. “I think that it is important to have a maternal health center here, because if we detect a possible problem during their prenatal visit, we will know it and it will be on their file when they come in to give birth. We will be able to follow-up with them better because all of their care is happening in one place.”
Dr. Mondesir said it is also essential that women in Marmont will have a center in their community where they can give birth. She hopes by having the maternal health center, less women will have their babies at home. And she feels this will help decrease the maternal mortality rate in the community of Marmont.
“Sometimes the women live very far and getting them on the road and then all the way to Hinche or all the way to Thomonde is very difficult for them,” Dr. Mondesir said. “When the women realized how long it will take to get to the hospital, they just prefer to stay at home and have the baby there. I think that the maternal health center will also help decrease the maternal mortality rate here in this community. While there will be some mothers who still have their babies at home because they can’t make it here in time, I believe more women will come here knowing that there is a place close and someone here who can help them.”
The maternal health center is scheduled to open this spring.