Story by Ursula Wharton
L-R Violet, Isabel, Cathy, Georgina, Andy
In Niger, West Africa, where the infant mortality rate is among the worst in the world, Galmi Hospital assists an average of 100 births a month, almost all of them complicated.
Many patients travel great distances to access the SIM missionary hospital, which was established at the edge of the Sahara Desert more than 60 years ago and became the catalyst for the town of Galmi, which has since sprung up around the hospital.
It is here, in this parched, remote corner of the world that Dr Andy Linton is temporarily relocating with his family to volunteer his services in the maternity ward.
“Dealing with some tragic circumstances is going to be hard. Just reading about the health statistics in Niger is really sobering,” Andy said.
“It's been called the worst country in the world to be a woman.”
Andy said he felt compelled to take on the relief role after a call-out from the hospital's permanent maternity doctor, Anne-Sophie Rowcroft, whom he'd met shortly before she left for Niger.
“[Dr Rowcroft] sent out a newsletter that described her standard day and by lunchtime she'd already done more significant work than I do in a year here.”
Andy's permanent work is in east Arnhem Land for Gove District Hospital and Laynhapuy Health and Community Services, which sees him regularly driving or flying to remote homelands for GP visitation services.
He has been granted unpaid leave to volunteer in Niger until the end of November.
“We are really lucky to be in a position to be able to do this and I'm lucky to be working in a place that allows for it,” Andy said.
Andy will be working very closely with the midwives at Galmi Hospital and is expecting to do a lot of vacuum deliveries.
“The midwives will only do vacuum. That's what they're comfortable with. It's more the standard device in developing nations.”
But clinical supplies are a challenge for Galmi Hospital.
“At the moment they're relying on donated single-use Omni cups and the supply is really low. Sometimes they're having to reuse them.
“From experience I know that it can be really difficult when the vacuum device gets clogged up.”
Andy reached out to Vacca Research, which has donated a number of reusable Omni cups for the hospital.
“I'm really excited about seeing whether they can benefit from the reusable Omni cup,” Andy said.
“It's such a great device in that it's self-contained with the operator.”
Andy is also planning to pass on some of the vacuum delivery skills he learned from the late Aldo Vacca and, with the help of Vacca Research, has acquired a custom training dummy.
“I imagine that training is a really difficult thing in settings like West Africa and I think the things that midwives have to do in places like that are so much beyond what they'd have to do in Australia and with so much less.”
“Having a model to use will be really useful.”
Andy and Vacca Research hope to fundraise enough money to bring a training course in vacuum delivery skills to West Africa.
To express your interest in contributing, contact Andy here.
The Galmi Hospital Fund is currently raising money for its women's chemotherapy program and donations can be made at sim.org.au/supportgalmi.