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Plans to address lack of midwives

Plans to address lack of midwives

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Nurses work at Pursat provincial hospital in 2009. Photo by: Heng Chivoan

The Health Ministry has announced plans to step up regional midwifery training programmes this year in a bid to address the unmet needs of women living in remote areas and combat Cambodia’s high maternal mortality rates.

Thir Kruy, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, told a workshop on health care services in Phnom Penh yesterday that training programmes in remote areas would be increased because midwives coming from urban areas rarely committed to live in rural provinces for the long-term.

He said most midwives lived and trained in Phnom Penh.

“It is a problem,” he said. “We put effort into training people but when they finish, they hesitate to work in rural or far away areas, so the far away areas still lack midwives.”

Many midwives from the cities who do work in remote areas, he said, only do so on a part-time or temporary basis.

“Most of them go to work in rural areas or far away areas for just a few days, and then they came back home,” he said.

“Because they are far away from their homes ... it is difficult for them living and working there.”

Authorities have long cited a lack of healthcare services in rural and remote areas as one of the major obstacles to reducing the Kingdom’s maternal mortality rate which, based on data from the 2008 census, is pegged at 461 deaths per 100,000 live births and is widely cited as among the highest in the region.

In 2009, Cambodia set a national target to reduce the maternal mortality rate to 250 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015. This target was revised upward from an original target of 140.

Chhay Svaycheaath, director of the Cambodian Midwives Association, which falls under the Ministry of Health, cautioned yesterday that stepping up training programmes would not guarantee a higher number of trained staff working in remote areas.

“Actually, I think we cannot force midwives to work anywhere. It is their right [to choose],” he said.

“Most of them would like to work in the city.”

Sosy Vorn, a midwife of more than 20 years who is based in a remote district in Kampong Thom province, welcomed the ministry’s announcement yesterday, saying most midwives wanted to work in the city, leaving rural communities understaffed.

“It is better for the ministry to promote training for rural people because they can serve their local community,” she said.

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