How do you describe your job?
The responsibility of an obstetrician is to safely take a mother through the pregnancy, through the birth, and post-partum.
To me, it’s satisfying. My role is fulfilled when I have mothers coming through my unit – including in the other hospitals throughout the country – delivering healthy babies, and those mothers then return safely to their families. Our role is to prevent maternal deaths.
Why did you choose your career path?
I became interested in medicine firstly because I saw the value in helping people in general: helping them to get better. And the more I saw the joy that child birth brings to mothers and fathers and families when there is a good outcome, the more interested I became in this field (obstetrics).
In gynecology, women come in with all sorts of problems – and they suffer because of that. Once we’ve treated those problems, there’s a great deal of happiness and relief.
And in obstetrics, our focus is on avoiding death – both of the mother and the child. But when it does happen; it’s a really sad thing. So that is why to become an obstetrician is really hard work; because it’s so important. Just to get there initially to be able to call yourself an obstetrician is a long journey. Most of the time is spent in the hospital learning and understanding; and then once you have the knowledge, the skills; you can prevent deaths, you can provide treatments. Those things are satisfying.
What are the challenges like?
Solomon Islands has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the Pacific. A key challenge here relates to access: this is a very dispersed country, and not everyone has access to health services. Many women have a lot of difficulty getting to clinics and health centers, and sometimes people can take a long time to seek help; often because of the lack of transport, and sometimes because of the cost of the journey.
And we don’t have many specialist doctors in provincial areas; most are general practitioners. Specialists who deal with obstetrics and gynecology – there are only a few of us, and we are all based in Honiara.
And the other key challenge relates to family planning. Men are almost always the head of households here. So, if we get the men on board and convince them to support their women with family planning, that will go a long way.
My experience in the hospital is – a lot of women want family planning; but they aren’t in a position to decide on their own. The man has to say ‘yes’ before the woman can have access and support for family planning. That is one of the big challenges we have here in Solomon Islands.
What does the future look like for Solomon Islands? What’s possible?
I’m very hopeful for the future.
I have come through the hardest part – mostly alone – since 2011. Now we have more obstetricians, we have more training. We will have more specialists in obstetrics and gynecology coming in, and we will get some of them out to the provinces.
I’m hopeful that we will improve maternal health in Solomon Islands. Preventing maternal deaths and helping women with gynecology problems is our goal.
What’s necessary for Solomon Islands to make this future a reality?
I would like the Ministry of Health and the government to support more training of specialists in obstetrics and gynecology; to see it as an area of need.
That is the only way forward to reduce maternal mortality and improve the health of women.
What gives you hope for the future?
I look at my own progress since 2011. I was basically alone until recently. And yet now we have progressed to a stage where there’s four of us. We are able to provide services to the National Referral Hospital, and now to the provinces.
So I’ve seen that in Solomon Islands. If we can strengthen those specialized services in the provinces; with more people out there – we can do a lot more to improve the health of the people.
Finish this sentence: ‘In the Pacific, it’s possible…’
...to improve maternal health and have good outcomes for families in the Pacific.
*The World Bank has been supporting Solomon Islands with the expansion rural development projects, community governance, improving the delivery and sustainability of energy and increasing employment in the country.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group and its employees.