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Sorsogon teams up with international groups to save mothers and their babies

SORSOGON CITY, Sorsogon (PIA) – “No mother should die in pregnancy and childbirth.” This has been the vision of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Governments and different organizations all over the world have been striving to achieve this goal, yet, the numbers are still going up.

Sorsogon province in the Bicol region is no exception to this challenge. For the past decade, Sorsogon has recorded an upward trend in maternal and neonatal death.

The Sorsogon Provincial Health Office (PHO) recorded about 136 cases of maternal and 21 neonatal deaths among its constituents in 2021, numbers higher than the previous year’s record.

PHO data also show that in 2022, some 78 cases of maternal deaths occurred in the province. In the first six months of 2023 alone, PHO recorded 20 cases of maternal deaths.

“We hope that by the end of the year, this figure will not continue to increase,” said Dr. Edric Ian Vargas of PHO’s Field Service.

Vargas added that based on their assessment and monitoring over the past decade, common causes of maternal deaths in the province included hemorrhage, hypertension, eclampsia and pre-eclampsia.

With the partnership of the provincial health office, municipal governments, barangay councils, line agencies, civil society organizations, and development partners, Sorsogon has achieved outstanding progress in providing universal health care that is accessible, available, affordable, and of high quality to its residents.

As one of the two provinces in Bicol designated as a Universal Health Care (UHC) integration site, Sorsogon is setting a precedent for improved healthcare services that prioritize the well-being of mothers and newborns.

LGU, Jhpiego and MSD team up for mothers

Among the plethora of international organizations that answered the call of WHO is John Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics (Jhpiego), an international organization dedicated to improving the health of women and families.

In 2020, Jhpiego forged a partnership with the provincial government of Sorsogon to address maternal and neonatal deaths in the province. In the ensuing years, the number of mortality among mothers during pregnancy and childbirth significantly decreased.

This achievement was made possible through the fundingsupport of Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) for Mothers Global Grant Program in Sorsogon.

Working with more than a dozen public and private

ALL FOR HEALTHY MOTHERS AND THEIR BABIES. A book where healthcare professionals can find the practical guide in managing maternal health emergencies is launched in Sorsogon. Posing for a photo during the launching of the book on August 30, 2023 are officials of John Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics, Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) for Mothers Global Grant Program in Sorsogon, Provincial Health Office, and Department of Health. (Photo by PIA Sorsogon)

health facilities, the MSD for Mothers Project has elevated emergency response capabilities and streamlined the referral process for maternal emergencies. This initiative aligns with the province's commitment to implementing UHC and focuses on enhancing maternal and newborn care, particularly in emergency situations.         

"One of the key accomplishments of the MSD for Mothers Project has been the training of healthcare professionals in evidence-based interventions, which has led to improved maternal outcomes. Additionally, health facilities are now better prepared to handle maternal and newborn emergencies,” said Dr. Dorothea Jarabo, the project’s local OB-GYNE Consultant. “These emergencies include the top three leading causes of maternal mortality: hypertension in pregnancy, preterm labor, and hemorrhage.”

The program covered inter-local areas that included the municipalities of Gubat, Prieto Diaz, Barcelona, Bulan, Bulusan, Irosin, Matnog, Sta. Magdalena, and Sorsogon City.

“With a limited budget, Jhpiego was able to provide technical assistance to the Provincial Health Office thru series of trainings among the health care providers, including local health workers, midwives, nurses, doctors, and specialists to capacitate them with skills in proper management and proper handling of maternal and neonatal emergencies in the province,” said Julie V. Passi, project officer of Jhpiego Philippines.

Moreover, they have also provided assistance on capacitating health facilities in the province to qualify the standard for addressing maternal health emergencies that included the provision of CTG (Cardiotocography) and fixing the referral system of patients among health facilities.

Sorsogon Provincial Health Officer Dr. Renato Bolo, Jr. proudly presents the "bluebook" that will help save the lives of mothers and their newborn, the first of its kind in the Philippines. (photo: PIA Sorsogon)
Copies of the "Bluebook on Primary Care Management and Algorithms of Common Emergency Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Cases" are on display in the province of Sorsogon.

The ‘Bluebook’ Launching

Consequently, this partnership has produced the “Bluebook on the Primary Care Management and Algorithm of Common Emergency and Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Cases in the Province of Sorsogon.”

The key resource book was the fruit of collaborative work of Jhpiego, PHO, health care practitioners and specialists.  It contains performance-based, clinical-based, and evidence-based guidelines and will serve as a manual on proper administering of interventions and proper management of maternal health emergencies.

With its launching on August 30, 2023 at Residencia del Hamor in Casiguran, Sorsogon, the province of Sorsogon has taken a giant step towards reducing maternal and newborn mortality rates.  The event gathered esteemed healthcare professionals, partners and stakeholders.

DOH Sorsogon Provincial Director Gladys Escote receives copies of the bluebook that will serve as guide for LGU health workers.
Dr. Renato Bolo Jr., Sorsogon provincial health officer (in white hospital gown), leads the unveiling of the book where healthcare professionals can find the practical guide in managing maternal health emergencies.

Dr. Maria Stephanie Fay Cagayan, the project's Senior OB-GYNE consultant and a leading contributor to the development of the resource book, shared that they hoped that through this bluebook of best practices, the capacity of health services to respond effectively to emergency maternal cases will improve. This includes early recognition of high-risk and complicated pregnancies, timely referrals, and the provision of primary care management.

Jhpiego Senior Program Manager Angela Nash-Mercado expressed her enthusiasm about this achievement, saying that the launch of this resource book is a testament to the power of partnerships and effective health networks.

“By pooling our expertise and resources, we are paving the way for safer pregnancies and healthier futures for mothers and newborns in Sorsogon," she further said.

"Our province is dedicated to providing exemplary maternal and newborn care," said Dr. Renato Bolo Jr., provincial health officer for Sorsogon.

“This resource book empowers our healthcare professionals with the knowledge they need to respond swiftly and effectively to critical situations, ensuring the safety and health of mothers and newborns.”

He continued: “Through this ongoing process of quality improvement and reinforcing our healthcare system since 2022, Sorsogon is achieving remarkable strides in its response to obstetric emergencies.”

“The province is steadfastly committed to ensuring that pregnant women within the province receive the utmost standard of care throughout their pregnancies and during childbirth,” Bolo added.

Dr. Ingrid Magnata, country program manager of Jhpiego Philippines, underscored the broader impact of the manual saying that the bluebook isn't just a publication.

“It provides healthcare professionals in Sorsogon with evidence-based tools to manage emergencies, ultimately ensuring that every pregnancy and childbirth receives the attention it deserves," she added.

In short, the bluebook is a lifeline.

Kapihan sa PIA

Another highlight of the launching was the conduct of Kapihan sa PIA Sorsogon, a government communication platform for a free-flowing conversation with key resource persons who shared to the general public the importance of the bluebook.

This took place also at Residencia Del Hamor Clubhouse in Casiguran, Sorsogon just after the launching.

Here, media partners were given the opportunity to bring up related concerns with the four resource persons.

Dr. Gladys D. Escote described how the bluebook immortalizes the assistance given to the province of Sorsogon as it walks through and achieves the UHC implementation.

“This can also be used as basis or reference material by local government units, not just in Sorsogon but across the country, as this is based on the actual experiences of our health workers in the province,” she added.

Dr. Maricel Fajardo of PHO shared significant statistics related to maternal and neonatal cases in the province, citing maternal mortality ratio from direct causes showed an increasing trend from 2019 at 42 to 2021 at 136, and a significant decrease in 2022 at 78, per 100,000 live births.

From the last three consecutive years (2020-2022), maternal mortality ratio reached the targeted maternal deaths per 100,000 livebirths which is 70.

Meanwhile, neonatal mortality shows an increasing trend from 2020 at four (4) to 2021 at 21, and a decrease in 2022 at 11 deaths, per 1,000 live births.

Dr. Marilyn Lacsa-Amisola, head of PHO Obgyne Department shared how the project helped the systematization of the referral pathway.

Dr. Jazel Calleja, physician of Sorsogon City Rural Health Unit shared her appreciation of the book as guide for health workers and explained how it can build their confidence as the book simplifies their work on ground.

The past three years had been a good period for both Jhpiego and the provincial government of Sorsogon with the successful and impactful implementation of projects to improve the delivery of services for maternal health care in the province.

Resource persons take a few minutes to share a light moment before discussing the important issues on emergencies involving mothers and their newborn during the Kapihan sa PIA. In photo are DOH Sorsogon Provincial Director Gladys Escote, PHO Sorsogon Health Officer I Marciel Fajardo, Sorsogon Provincial Hospital Obgyne Department Head Marilyn Lacsa-Amisola, and Sorsogon City Rural Health Physician Jazel Calleja.
News reporters cover the launching and Kapihan sa PIA Sorsogon August 30, 2023. (Photo: PIA Sorsogon)
The bluebook launching gathers healthcare professionals, partners and stakeholders. (Photo: PIA Sorsogon)
Guests and organizers watch the AVP during the bluebook launching August 30, 2023. (Photo: Geri Carretero, Jhpiego)
Book launching organizers and guests pose for a souvenir photo August 30, 2023. (Photo: PIA Sorsogon)

The program has benefited scores of mothers and families.

With this, the province has earned a reputation, not just in the Bicol region but also in the entire nation, for its best practices in delivering quality standard maternal health care.

This would have not been possible without the political will of the provincial government officials who enacted the needed measures to deliver quality services to mothers and newborns in the province. (With reports from Jefferson Pura, PIA5/Sorsogon, and Geri Carretero, Jhpiego)

About the Author

Benilda Recebido

Information Center Manager

Region 5

Benilda "Bennie" Recebido is the Information Center Manager of PIA Sorsogon.

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