Improving Child Healthcare
Three Norwegian associates at UKZN’s Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics are not only working to reduce perinatal mortality rates and teaching researchers to write scientific articles aid, but are also giving back to the community.
Since 2004, Professors Eva Tegnander and Sturla Eik-Nes have been involved in training midwives to use ultrasound in KwaZulu-Natal health clinics. They also direct the Umoja project that aims to develop a user-friendly prototype 2 ultrasound machine that is based on a smart tablet to aid the midwives in their work and improve pregnancy care. Since 2013, Sturla’s wife, Professor Nancy Eik-Nes, has been regularly teaching registrars and younger researchers to improve their scientific writing skills. They all are affiliated with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway.
In the course of their work, they shared ideas with local community member and taxi driver Mr Sipho Patric Dlamini. Dlamini has been their driver since 2004 and the four have developed a lasting friendship. Dlamini has always dreamt of giving back to his community. The three Norwegians joined in and the four developed “Patric’s Charity Foundation for Noodsberg Primary School” which recently donated 100 pairs of shoes and 200 pairs of socks to learners at Primary School at Noodsberg.
Sturla says their general work in KwaZulu-Natal has been influenced by the Scandinavian model for using ultrasound: In Norway, midwives are doing the routine ultrasound examinations offered to all pregnant women at week 18. Sturla started the organisation of routine scanning in Norway in the late eighties. Tegnander who is also a midwife, then developed the formal university based ultrasound training of midwives. Experience has shown that all pregnant women in the peripheral/rural areas should be offered ultrasound examinations in order to reduce perinatal mortality in a country. Offering ultrasound services in private practice in the larger cities only, has little influence on improving the perinatal statistics of the total country.
Based on their work over time, the Norwegians have suggested different organisational models to be applied in the rural areas. One of them is the “Empangeni model”, which involves one large hospital, Lower Umfolozi District War Memorial Hospital (LUDWMH), surrounded by several primary health clinics. Five of the 13 midwives that educated there in 2011/2012 now work at five surrounding primary health clinics. They scan all the pregnant women attending the clinics and refer special cases to the centrally located LUDWMH.
An encouraging result is a fruitful co-operation between the hospital’s sonographers and the ultrasound midwives. Now the midwives identify cases to be further evaluated by the sonographers. The clinic midwives also gather basic information such as the precise gestational age and estimated time of delivery, twins, location of the placenta, etc. This has reduced the sonographers’ workload and resulted in more rational use of the skills of all parties and have made it possible for most of the pregnant woman to benefit from an ultrasound scan.
At the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, Nancy has continued the work she initiated in 2013, providing courses and workshops on scientific writing, as well as working one-on-one with those preparing protocols, articles for publication and PhD theses. Her co-operation with students and staff continues beyond her visits to South Africa and has resulted in young South African researchers being published in scientific journals.
‘It has been a true privilege to be able to participate in various activities that hopefully are of benefit to staff, students and, ultimately to the patients who are affected by the work at the School of Clinical Medicine. The shoes and socks project has deeply touched our hearts,’ said Sturla and added ‘that the support to the Noodsberg Primary School and the overwhelming response from the parents and the children has made us decide to make it a yearly event.’
Words: Lihle Sosibo