The International Skills and Training Institute in Health (ISTIH) recently demonstrated its commitment to supporting child and maternal healthcare development in Papua New Guinea.

In May 2012 ISTIH sent a substantial number of clinical teaching aids to support the delivery of skills training courses in Emergency Obstetric Care, a result of the generous funds donated to the Institute by Mrs Heather Grauaug. The equipment ISTIH has provided fill a vital demand for portable teaching aids to support the delivery of ‘train the trainer’ courses within rural and remote communities across Papua New Guinea.

Maternal mortality rates in Papua New Guinea are among some of the highest in the world, and have more than doubled in the past decade. 85% of the population of Papua New Guinea live in rural areas, with little or no access to clinical healthcare. Lack of access to trained medical professionals is compounded by a lack of facilities for family planning and clinical supervision of childbirth.

Dr Miriam O’Connor, an Australian obstetrician, gynaecologist and Sexual and Reproductive Health consultant has played a key role in efforts to improve child and maternal healthcare in Papua New Guinea. Having worked with the Papua New Guinea’s Department of Health for the past ten years, Dr O’Connor has witnessed the worsening situation first hand. Drawing upon her vast experience in this area of healthcare to respond to the need for ‘upskilling’ within the child and maternal healthcare sector, in 2007 Dr O’Connor began developing a training course in Emergency Obstetric Care.

Following the course’s formal approval by the Asia Pacific Committee of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), Dr O’Connor’s efforts have been expanded to educate doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, medical students and community caregivers covering many of the country’s most under-resourced areas.

The courses are adaptable to the different skills, resources and levels of participants’ experience within the PNG health system, and are intended to build upon and refresh knowledge and skills acquired through medical school.

ISTIH’s contribution in support of Dr O’Connor and colleagues is made possible by the significant donation made by Mrs Grauaug, a Claremont resident.

“I am delighted to see the funds being used to support child and maternal healthcare in such a tangible way,” said Mrs Grauaug. “I’ve had the privilege of delivering four healthy babies because of expert medical care… It’s nice to be in a position to share it around.”

Mrs Grauaug’s late husband, Professor Alfred Asher Grauaug, was the first paediatrician to specialise in neonatology in Western Australia. As Director of the Neonatal Unit at King Edward Memorial Hospital, Dr Grauaug oversaw the growth of the hospital’s birth facilities from a ‘simple nursery’ to include one of the largest and best equipped neonatal intensive care units in Australasia. Professor Grauaug was also an enthusiastic teacher and helped develop the curricula for midwives, graduate neonatal nurses and medical students at the University of Western Australia.

“[Child and maternal healthcare] is a cause close to my heart and as it was to his,” Mrs Grauaug said.