By Charles Akinmurele
The woman looks excitedly at the phone as it rings. She had wanted to call the man at the other end of the phone, but he has now beaten her to it. The man is the physician attached to her after she became pregnant and she registered at the state government medical facility in Owena town.
The essence of the physician-called the Health Ranger- being attached to her is to enable him attend to her medical needs so that she can carry the pregnancy through without complications. Not only is the physician attached to her, she also got a mobile phone to facilitate communication with him at the state government expense.
Since she woke up this morning, she had felt extraordinarily tired, necessitating her decision to call the physician. But somehow she has been unable to make the call .Now as if the physician knows she has some challenge concerning her pregnancy that requires urgent attention, he is calling her.
She picks the phone to tell the physician about her state of health. The Health Range informs her that she appears to be suffering from severe morning sickness. He adds that she would need first aid treatment in one of the ambulances –on- tricycle in town before being moved to the Mother and Child Hospital in Akure.
This pregnant woman is a beneficiary of the Safe Motherhood (Abiye) programme of the Ondo State government under the leadership of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. The Safe Motherhood programme is an innovation by the Mimiko administration to cut infant and maternal mortality rates in the state.
The administration came in, in 2009.One year before then, the infant and maternal mortality rates had assumed an alarming dimension. The state was rated by the Nigerian Demographic and Health Statistics as having the worst maternal and child health statistics in the south-west.
This was enough to give a governor with a Caring Heart a cause for concern. A survey showed where the problem lay: poor access to medical facilities by children and pregnant women especially in the rural areas of the state. The onus to reverse the ugly trend lay on mimiko, himself a medical doctor.
He conceived the Safe Motherhood programme, loosely translating to Abiye in Yoruba. It was an ambitious programme not only to cut infant and maternal deaths tremendously, but also increase the utilisation of health care facilities in Ondo State.
Specifically, the aim was to reduce child mortality by 50 percent in 2011, maternal mortality also by 50 percent and increase facility utilization by 60 percent. Under the Safe Motherhood programme, there are Abiye Centers in the communities across the state with the Mother and Child Hospital being the apex facility and a referral centre for complicated cases.
The first Mother and Child Hospital was built in Akure, the state capital, with a bigger one in Ondo town.Others have been designated for different parts of the state, that is, no less than one in each senatorial district. There is so much care for the expectant mother and her unborn baby under the Safe Motherhood programme.
She is registered, treated and looked after throughout the duration of her pregnancy and until about two months after putting to bed, free of charge. This translates to each beneficiary spending about 11 months being taken care of under the programme.
At the point of registration at the Abiye Centre, the pregnant woman is assigned a physician, a specially trained community health worker called the Health Ranger, to effectively monitor her. She also gets a mobile phone linked to a toll-free user group to ease communication with the physician.
The latest addition to the Safe Motherhood programme is the ambulance-on-tricycle stationed in villages and communities across Ondo State. The ambulance-on-tricycle, about 50 of them, were procured by the Mimiko administration and to give first aid treatment to expectant mothers before they can access the Abiye Centre or the apex maternal facility nearest to them, the Mother and Child Hospital.
The ambulance-on-tricycle became necessary after it was found that many pregnant women in the villages require first aid before getting to the maternal facilities nearest to them. The evidence that the Ondo maternal Interventionist programme is well on course, contrary to the dismissive insinuation by the opposition parties that nothing to cheer is happening in the health sector, particularly in this all-important segment, in the run- up to the October 20 poll, is the completion of another Mother and Child Hospital in Ondo town.
The apex maternity facility was commissioned by the governor recently. The commissioning is a signal that, before long, there will be the referral institution across Ondo State and expectant women and children would be better for it. Today, the Safe Motherhood initiative is a success story such that it has earned Mimiko accolades from far and near.
The pilot scheme took place in Ifedore council and it was a huge success, following which personnel under the programme was deployed state -wide, that is, in the other sixteen councils. To underscore the widespread acceptance of the Abiye programme, within nine months of operation, 17,220 out-patients, including 10,300 children under five years and 6,920 pregnant women, benefited.
This is in addition to 3,235 safe deliveries, 521 caesarean sections and 1,876 pediatrics admission. This is at no cost whatsoever to the beneficiaries. The achievement of the programme in nine months pales into insignificance compared to what was achieved by the second anniversary of Safe Motherhood in Ondo State. By last year (2011), 31,000 patients had received treatment in the Ondo maternal facilities.
These include 11,879 deliveries and 1,400 caesarian sections. Now, with an average of 20 deliveries daily at the Akure apex facility, statistics are growing to suggest that pregnancy is no longer a death sentence in the state.
And contrary to the bleak outlook in 2008 that saw the poor rating of the state by the National Demographic and Health Survey which put Ondo at the bottom of the table in the south west, a comparison of maternal mortality rates with major medical facilities in four states across the country indicate that the Abiye programme had the lowest mortality rate.
Among those who are celebrating the new dawn for childhood and motherhood under the guidance of Mimiko are gynecologists and obstetricians who know the difference between what had been in Ondo State and what is prevailing.
On the International scene, the Mimiko campaign to stem infant and maternal deaths is causing excitement at the World Bank. The Ondo State commissioner for information, Mr Kayode Akinrinmade, is no less excited about the giant strides of the Safe Motherhood programme.