Singapore nurses, doctors teach Cambodian midwives better birthing methods

PHOTO: Singapore nurses, doctors teach Cambodian midwives better birthing methods

These nurses and doctors from Singapore have played a crucial role in helping save babies and mothers in Cambodia, and their effectiveness lies not in fancy equipment.

It comes from teaching the locals.

Local Cambodian NGO Social Capital Venture Development collaborated with KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) to bring in a team of medical doctors and midwives to Kampong Chhnang Provincial Hospital (KCPH) for a four-day midwifery course last month.

Kampong Chhnang is 100km north of the capital Phnom Penh.

In the Chhnang province of 500,000 people, more than 15 women out of every 10,000 die during childbirth. In Singapore, the figure is just one.


Among the 70 midwives who attended the training was senior midwife at KCPH, Ms Pal Darin. She was eventually identified as someone who could become part of a team of core trainers.

These core trainers were given extra coaching so that they will be able to teach their peers.

Ms Darin, 48, told The New Paper that she "cannot wait to spread (her) knowledge to the many trainees that come to the hospital". Currently, she works four 27-hour shifts every week, and makes only US$250 ($310) a month.

The long hours and low pay in a government hospital may be unappealing to many, but it is Ms Darin's passion to serve and love for life that has kept her going.

She said: "If I don't love my job and the people I meet, how can I still do it after 27 years?"

Ms Darin thinks she must have delivered at least 20,000 babies over the years.

"In the 1990s, we saw four babies die a month," she said. "Now, just two."

The programme that the KKH team conducts seems to be working.

Associate Professor Anette Jacobsen, KKH's director of Paediatrics International Medical Programme, told The Straits Times that early numbers seem promising, with only three infant deaths in the first seven months of this year - compared with 10 to 15 a year previously.

Staff nurse Tong Yee Seong was impressing upon midwives in Cambodia's Kampong Chhnang province the importance of a practice many take for granted - washing one's hands before handling a childbirth.

The 27-year-old also taught the midwives how to cope with childbirth difficulties, from resuscitating newborn babies to dealing with massive bleeding, which could kill the mother.

"Despite having fewer resources than us, the Cambodians are still able to do a good job with what they have. I admire that," Ms Tong told The Straits Times.

"But we had to stress a lot on hand washing and hygiene because it's very important."

This article was first published on August 8, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.