Christopher Thomas, Gleaner Writer
THE MINISTRY of Health has disclosed that the midwifery profession in Jamaica and across the world needs improvement through stronger government policies, training of more midwives and provision of accurate medical data.
Dr Leila McWhinney-Dehaney, chief nursing officer at the Ministry of Health, made the revelation while addressing a graduation ceremony for 43 new midwives from the Cornwall School of Midwifery at the Mount Salem Seventh-day Adventist Church in Montego Bay last Thursday.
Twenty-one midwives graduated from the institute's Basic Midwivery course, while there were 22 graduates from the Post-Basic Midwifery course.
In her address, Dr McWhinney-Dehaney presented information from a 2011 World Health Report, which was coordinated by the United Nations Population Fund, to focus on 58 countries with high foetal, newborn and maternal mortality rates.
"There are some key messages of this study which are noteworthy. The practising midwifery workforce is not readily identifiable by existing country data. All over the world, we seem to have a real problem collecting correct data. We are at a deficit in both the numbers and competency of the midwifery workforce worldwide," Dr McWhinney-Dehaney reported.
"Coverage of birth by a competent workforce and quality of care are limited. Educational pathways and capacity require strengthening," she added. "Regulation and regulatory processes are insufficient to promote the perpetual autonomy of a midwife and to fulfil government obligation to protect the public. Professional associations are relatively new and in some instances are very fragile. Policy coherence and adherence is disjointed."
Dr McWhinney-Dehaney added that while Jamaica is not on the list of countries in the study, the outlined problems emphasised the nation's own need for improvement in midwifery services.
She pointed out that some of the key findings resonate with some of the challenges that the nation faces in its effort to provide a high quality of care to women and children that will will result in a reduction of our maternal and infant mortality rates. Thus making a difference in the emotional and physical health of persons.
Dr McWhinney-Dehaney acknowledged that there was an "acute shortage" of midwives in certain regions and in specific parishes at all levels of care, but more so at the primary health-care level. It is therefore imperative, she said, that the Ministry of Health continue to give oversight to the numbers of midwives that are produced, distributed and retained in our health system.
In the meantime, medical consultant and keynote speaker Dr Beryl Webley advised the graduates to focus on their personal development and the care of their patients in their profession.
"Please reach for the sky and focus on your personal development, as well as caring for those for whom you have responsibility. The way forward demands that midwives be very skilled and professional, so maximise your potential," said Dr Webley.
She added: "Always do your best. Learning is no use if you do not put it into practice. Do not hide your light under a bushel, but utilise your God-given talents and strengths for the good of mankind and your own development."