ROTARY ROUND-UP: Rotary supports Worthing midwives in Sri Lanka

Kayley and Danielle with doctors and nurses from the Kandy Hospital in Sri Lanka
Kayley and Danielle with doctors and nurses from the Kandy Hospital in Sri Lanka
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This week, David Chapman, from the Rotary Club of West Worthing, gives an update on the latest and future goings-on.

West Worthing Rotary Club was pleased to help support the efforts of two local young women, Danielle Sayers and Karley Wood, who gave a talk last year about their Sri Lankan Midwifery Project.

Danielle and Karley were in the third year of their midwifery course at Bournemouth University.

Although both with families of their own, their passion to become qualified midwives resulted in their undertaking this three year graduate level course.

As part of the course they had to complete a third year elective project and they joined forces to concentrate on doing something that could help alleviate the disturbingly high levels of maternal and child mortality in Sri Lanka.

Whilst captivated by the true beauty of Sri Lanka and its people, they were also disturbed by the statistics; the country still has a high infant mortality of 10 per 1,000 live births, compared to that of 4.5 here in the UK in spite of recent improvements.

Danielle and Karley raised the £6,500 necessary to take themselves to Sri Lanka for two weeks with the intention of contributing to the effort to improve the situation.

The funds also enabled them to buy medical equipment which was donated to the Kandy Hospital.

Karley and Danielle found that the high mortality rates are very much due to the situation in Sri Lanka, which is a developing and poor country and recovering from the effects of the 2004 tsunami.

Sri Lankan maternity services face the difficulties of over populated clinics that increase the transmission of fatal infections.

Poor basic hygiene facilities and practices exacerbate the problems.

But many die because of the poverty of the people and the lack of equipment for complex cases, such as incubators and adequate theatre space and the lack of trained staff and suitable equipment for premature births.

Lack of information and support for parents, for example, on the thermoregulation of the new born also causes child fatalities.

The lack of antenatal care in Sri Lanka means that there are more complicated pregnancies because medical conditions go unnoticed until women go into labour. Emergency caesarean sections are common.

As with most developing countries, the availability of pain relief in labour is rare.

Reporting back to West Worthing Rotary Club, Danielle and Karley said: “Our time in Sri Lanka was a real eye opener and a learning curve for us. Being able to work and observe in the hospital, meant we learnt about their culture, religion and the way they work as midwifes, doctors and nurses.

“Although initially it was quite difficult to communicate with the healthcare professionals, due to the language barrier, we soon found ourselves settling in and learning a lot from them.

“Patient verbal communication was almost impossible but we were still able to give encouragement to the women during labour with our body language.

“The Sri Lankan nurses were very interested to learn how we do things in the UK and they seemed very surprised at some of the things that we do, such as induction and the availability of a much wider range of medication.

“We were surprised to see that once the baby was born they would take the baby away from the mother to be warmed rather than having the skin to skin contact with their mother, as is the general practise here at home.

“Although we were aware of the lack of resources, hygiene, and so on, once there the reality was quite shocking to us. On the other hand almost all women breast fed their babies and successfully with little assistance, unlike the women in the UK.

“We met with the midwifery and nursing chief director of the hospital in Kandy, and we were overwhelmed by his gratitude for the most simplest of equipment, for example blood pressure cuffs, which are freely available in UK hospitals.

“Despite the lack of resources and poor practice, we met many lovely people in our time in Sri Lanka and we were able to demonstrate emergency skills to improve and update their practice.”

Danielle concluded by saying: “It really made us realise how lucky we are in the UK to have such a good healthcare system, with excellent healthcare professionals and very accessible education.”

President of West Worthing Rotary Club, Sue Virgo, said: “We were so taken with the passion and dedication shown by Danielle and Karley to this worthwhile project.

“It is so heartening to see that young people with so many family commitments and pressures are able to raise their sights to be aware of and help those less fortunate than themselves in such a direct and practical manner.”

Details of Worthing’s three Rotary clubs are:

• Worthing Rotary Club meets Monday, 12.55pm, at the Chatsworth Hotel, in The Steyne, Worthing, 01903 262222.

• West Worthing Rotary Club meets Tuesday evening at Tudor Close, Ferring, 01903 501961.

• Worthing Steyne Rotary Club meets Monday evening at The Ardington Hotel, in Steyne Gardens, Worthing, 01903 234957.

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