Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner (FP)??

"The interest and commitment to improving the survival chances of mother and child should occupy the attention of the entire health sector."

This is the view of Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner. She was at the time addressing the 5th Annual Perinatal Mortality Conference, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Auditorium, where she noted that each constituent of the health sector must work as an integrated whole to achieve optimum results.

Mrs. Sandiford-Garner disclosed that, in Barbados, there had been significant challenges in terms of resources, equipment and manpower in relation to providing optimal health care during the perinatal and neonatal period. She observed: "Essential services must be provided at key points in the life cycle of both mother and child through dynamic health systems that integrate a continuum of home, community and facility-based care. Continuum of maternal and neonatal care must include adequate antenatal care, skilled attendance at delivery, post-natal care and neonatal care."

Referring to World Health Organisation statistics on perinatal mortality, the Parliamentary Secretary, who has responsibility for the QEH, said every year, over four million babies die in the first four weeks of life, with three million of those deaths occurring in the neonatal period. "Worldwide, there are over 6.3 million perinatal deaths, almost all of which occur in the developing countries. Moreover, it is estimated that more than 3.3 million babies are stillborn every year, one in three of these deaths occur during delivery. It is also important to note that 98 percent of the deaths take place in the developing world," Senator Sandiford-Garner explained.

It was further pointed out that comparative statistics showed Barbados already had the second best neonatal and perinatal rates in the English-speaking Caribbean; though the rates were still double those of the developed world. The Parliamentary Secretary said: "It is worthy to note that our still birth rate is comparable with developed countries. This means that while our efforts so far have been productive there is still room to improve our performance."

Participants were told how the Ministry of Health and the QEH, through assistance from the Pan-American Health Organisation, were addressing the issue with the implementation of a perinatal information system, to track elements of maternal and child health programmes and activities from the beginning stage to the end.

"One of the objectives of this system is to identify weaknesses within the system through the collection and evaluation of data. Thus, meaningful and timely intervention

could be made in an effort to keep our maternal and perinatal mortality rates relatively low and improve the overall status of health," said Senator Sandiford-Garner.

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