A pregnant woman was forced to give birth on an outdoor bench with only neighbours to help because staff at a government health centre in Ratanakkiri province had left the facility unmanned, according to friends and family.
Vad Vath, 24, was taken to the Kachanh Health Centre in Banlung town at about 5:30am on Sunday morning, after she’d gone into labour.
“She gave the birth to her kid on the bench in front of the health centre,” said nieghbour Romas Ren. “We helped to bring the water and scissors to cut the umbilical cord.”
Clinic staff didn’t turn up for work until 10am, she added.
“It often happens that Kachanh Health Centre has no medic available, and patients aren’t taken care of,” Ren said. “Most patients return home and we use traditional herbal medicine to treat ourselves.”
Kachanh commune chief Tong Pov confirmed the incident had happened, and said he was aware the health centre was being left unattended and had warned staff about the problem a number of times.
But Ministry of Health spokesman Ly Sovann maintained the case was a one-off.
“This is not a common problem,” he said. “If there is a problem with staffing, they should call the Ministry of Health hotline.”
Health centres should be open 24 hours with a midwife always on call, he added.
The director of the maternal health NGO Racha, Chan Theary, also doubted the problem was widespread.
“In the past, this happened a lot, but about five years ago, the government introduced a very successful incentive scheme which gives midwives an extra $15 for every baby they deliver alive, which has cut maternal mortality dramatically,” she said.
However, she added, “The Provincial Health Department in Banlung town should look at their referral system.”
“If you have a good health centre, the pregnant woman would already have the phone number of the midwife or health care provider who would be on call,” she said.
Additional reporting by Jamie Elliott