With so much effort and focus being directed towards free healthcare for mothers, it has been made clear by an obstetrics expert from the Ministry of Health, that if mortality rates within mothers are to drop, national obstetrics and gynecology services must improve.
Due to the lack of medical training and treatment experience of staff members, mothers giving birth in Vientiane hospitals are still at risk of death similar to those at local community healthcare centers.
During the 10th National Congress in Obstetrics and Gynecology, obstetrics expert from the Ministry of Health, Dr Alongkone Phengsavanh insisted that medical professionals must continue to expand and improve national obstetrics and gynecology services, even though the maternal mortality rate has declined in recent years.
Statistics have shown that in 2015, the maternal mortality rate was 220 per 100,000 live births; 30 percent occurring in Vientiane hospitals, 70 percent transpiring in local healthcare centers. And though the national maternal mortality rate has decreased to 190 per 100,000 live births in 2016, 50 percent of these deaths have occurred at hospitals within the capital.
Dr Alongkone suggested that the issues were caused by physicians not having the ability or experience to properly deal with a medical emergency adequately. He stated, “The only way to solve this is that physicians must improve their knowledge aiming to make pregnancy safer for women.”
According to the doctor, due to experience and equipment levels being so drastically different between facilities, officials need to review the status and capacity of all its hospitals individually. He emphasized that city hospitals should be the first to be upgraded so it can afford to provide emergency obstetrics and neonatal care services.
Vice President at the University of Health Sciences, Dr Phouthone Mangkonevilay, confirmed that obstetrics and gynecology services in the country remains behind where it needs to be, despite upgrades and expansions.
He indicated that the number of medical staff remained the same, or even fallen, compared to the number of jobs available. He stated, “There are only 100 doctors in the country who have expertise in obstetrics, with around 40 bachelor certified medical staff in the subject and 30 midwives who have passed the official training course.”
By 2018, the health sector is to add 1,500 properly trained obstetrical staff who will be qualified and equipped to attend to mother and child health services.