"WE CRY WHEN THE WOMEN DIE" – A STORY FROM SAIDOR

Dilung Gama and her daughter Martina    sit on bed in a small maternity ward   at the  Saidor Health Center.      Martina  who suffers from epilepsy,    gave birth near  their village  a few days ago.   

The  child has been given away for adoption and Dilung  – who appears to be in her 60s  – says  they  did that because Martina has too many children.   She doesn’t say how many  children her daughter has   but she points to a boy behind her  and says: “That’s one of them.” 
Mother and  daughter, Dlung and Matilda Gama 
            Like many other parts of Papua New Guinea,  stories about the  plight of women and children    is all too common.    We’ve become desensitized  to  images and stories that would cause panic and alarm  in other countries.  
            Martina is one of the lucky few  who have made it to a health center.   Her village was beside a road and  she was fortunate  that her relatives brought her to  Saidor in time.  Many others aren’t so fortunate.
            “…For instance,  we get a  radio message that says there’s a women in pain,” says Lynette Dawo, a community health worker.  “In actual  fact,  she’s been in pain for the last three or four days and the message has just reached us  because it took several days for her husband  to get to a radio.” 
Lynette Dawo – Community Health Worker
            The  Raikos area of Madang shares a  common border with the Morobe province.   The area is  rugged   and  mountainous. It’s people are scattered  along  across a thin coastal strip   stretching from the Astrolabe to Wasu  in Morobe.  Many more  live in hamlets in the  the rugged hills overlooking the coast.  Transportation is extremely difficult  when it comes to  medical emergencies.
            Lynette and other  workers here at Saidor   are a  dedicated lot of health professionals. But their dedication and commitment  has not always been enough to save countless lives lost because of transport difficulties.
            “It is a painful place  to  work,”   she says.  “Our patients are like family.
            She  recalls  a  medevac she  requested several years ago for a  woman  who was suffering from birth complications.  She died while  Lynette  other staff  were  desperately trying to find a boat.
            “I  cried for her. I went to the  health office and  I said:  why did it  take so long to find the boat. We  let  her die.” 
Gabriel Puak, Nursing officer, 
            Saidor had a  sea ambulance once.  But the heath Center didn’t have the money to  get it fixed  after it broke down 10 years ago.   The health centers,  buildings are badly in need of maintenance.   The workers point out that all available resources  are channeled towards saving lives.   Transportation alone eats into the meager  user fees collected by the health center. 
            “Sometimes we try to get the patients to pay for  emergency transportation,” says  Gabriel Puak.  “ But  they can’t afford it. Transport difficulties also has a major impact on the local economy and their ability to make their own money.” 
            Gabriel holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Midwifery.  In saidor, he has been able to reduce the number of  deaths  during birth.  He  knows he can do a lot more if  only he had the money and  the means of transportation  to get  the medicines and staff to  the many rural locations that demand attention.  
            “Sometimes I sit  at home and wonder  why I was born here and why I chose this profession.   I’ve got the skills to do the job  but how do I get to those many people  who need help.”

Advertisements