T&T Association of Midwives (TTAM) is calling on all midwives to join the fight for improved maternal healthcare in T&T.
This call came at the TTAM's annual conference, that was recently held at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain. The theme of this year's conference was Midwives, A Voice For Families.
The key speaker at this year's conference was president of the Netherlands-based International Confederation of Midwives, Frances Day-Stirk. In her address, she demonstrated why it is imperative that midwives should be regarded as an integral part of maternal healthcare.
She urged midwives to present themselves as a necessity, by taking their own profession seriously in order to gain respect.
Day-Stirk, who was visiting T&T for the first time, said it was embarrassing how poorly the Caribbean was represented in the global consultation on providing quality midwifery care. The report, published in October, showed there was only one participant from T&T.
"What does that tell you? We as midwives have to get serious about our profession," she said. "No one will hear our voices if we ourselves don't have a voice."
Day-Stirk added, "Midwives, we are the voices for families. And we must listen to them.
And our decision-makers must listen to our voices if they really want to improve quality healthcare."
One issue the leader of the world's 400,00 midwives from 116 nations spoke out against is the rough treatment many mothers receive from healthcare professionals at public health institutions. Day-Stirk pointed to the World Health Organization's (WHO) statement on the prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during facility�based childbirth and said every woman has the right to dignified and respectful care.
"I was trying to take a picture of a poster I saw along the highway, I think it is from your equal opportunities commission, which talked about nobody should feel intimidated or be humiliated...did you see that poster? I think I am going to have to get it before I leave....it is a very good one," she said.
The Jamaica-born senior midwife spoke about the importance of two key UN strategies, the Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health 2016-2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Under the Global Strategy, the UN has set a target of reducing the global maternal mortality rate to 70 per 100,000 live births. Day-Stirk said T&T's medical statistics indicate that the maternal mortality rate in Trinidad has gone up.
"The target is 12 per thousand live births. Your current stats show a figure of 13.2, but your Minister wants it to be a lot lower," Day-Stirk said.
Health minister Terrance Deyalsingh, who also spoke at the event, said his office had plans to appoint a director of women's health at the Ministry.
Quoting from the 2014 State of the World Midwifery Report, Day-Stirk reminded the midwives of some of the key elements of good maternal care.
They include quality service; accessibility for all women of reproductive age; government's role in healthcare; data collection; ending gender discrimination; and, the importance of all healthcare providers working together.
"We as midwives need to raise our voices for families to highlight the terrible unnecessary interventions that are taking place," Day-Stirk reiterated.
She said midwives have the solutions to change the experience of maternal care, to put an end to the socio-cultural barriers, economic barriers and professional barriers. However she warned if midwives don't have a voice these solutions will sit with them and go nowhere.
"Please recognise the importance of your voice."