A WIGAN man is helping save the lives of new mothers in Uganda.
Dr Paul Westhead has been over in the African country since September, taking a 12-month out-of-programme experience, and has been part of a major new unit at the Mulago Hospital, pictured right.
The country faces a widespread problem when it comes to childbirth. A lack off correct facilities means that mothers face many complications which can even prove fatal.
Last year, 186 new mums lost their lives.
The hospital sees the birth of around 31,000 babies each year, which is around eight times the amount of Wigan Infirmary.
The Liverpool-Mulago Partnership, with funding from the Tropical Health Education Trust, has developed a post-natal high dependency unit.
High risk patients are taken into a six-bedded monitored area with a minimum nursing to patient ratio.
Paul, an ST3 doctor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, helps on this ward.
He said: “The ward was set up just after I got there and in the first six weeks there were no deaths at all. “It was great for us because it showed how much of a success the scheme was. Because of lack of access to proper facilities, women were dying from various problems such as bleeding, infection and HIV.
“Also, over here, labour usually lasts hours as opposed to days but that isn’t the case in Uganda, due to their set up. Women often rupture their uterus during labour which is very dangerous.”
Paul, who grew up on Wigan Lane, had a brief spell at home over Christmas but is set to return to Uganda on January 10 where he will stay until June.
He added: “We have great staff in this country but it is a very different story over there. I really enjoy working there and get so much out of it, but at times I just find myself banging my head against a brick wall.”
Although the battle to save mothers is underway, the focus is also on helping keep babies alive.
“There is a 10 per cent death rate among the new born babies at the hospital,” said Paul. “So with there being around 90 babies being delivered every day, we see around 10 deaths, which is very sad and something we are looking to improve.
“Our project is working well at the moment and we are pleased with it. I’m looking forward to going back over there and getting back to work.”
Paul attended St John Fisher High School and Winstanley College before heading to Liverpool University to study his medicine degree.
He now helps teach students at the university and is enjoying his work.
He added: “I am in the middle of a wonderful experience over there and the positive side brings so much joy but I certainly won’t be quick to criticise our facilities upon my return!”
The Liverpool-Mulago Partnership is still in need of donations. To make one, visit http://www.mycharitypage.com/drwesthead.