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Monday, February 28, 2011

Cambodia beckons for midwifery chief

A MIDWIFERY boss is stepping down to carry out volunteer work in a poverty-stricken country.

Angela Oxley, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at Furness General Hospital, is leaving her post to work on improving maternity services in a hospital in Cambodia for two years.

Mrs Oxley, who also works across other hospitals within the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, will be based in Stung Treng hospital in northern Cambodia as part of a programme run by the Voluntary Services Overseas charity.

The hospital is staffed by a medical director and team of midwives, but they do not receive regular wages and must work in the markets to earn money.

In the province of Stung Treng, there are eight small clinics where births take place with only a basic qualified midwife or traditional birth attendant present. Part of Mrs Oxley’s work will involve reviewing care in these clinics and trying to improve training and referrals.

Mrs Oxley, who has 20 years’ experience working as a midwife in Cumbria, said: “I’m going out there to see what improvements can be made with a limited staff and budget.

“It will be a huge challenge, I know, but the idea is not for me just to go out there, work as a midwife and come back two years later with nothing changed.

“My colleagues at FGH have been really positive. A lot have said they could never do it, but I also hope it will encourage more people to go out there and do it.”

VSO in Cambodia has an overall aim of reducing infant and maternal mortality rates in line with the United Nations and World Health Organisation. The current maternal mortality rate is one in 260, compared with one in 12,000 in the UK.

Many of these deaths occur in the rural areas, where women often have no access to trained staff.

The VSO funds Mrs Oxley’s travel to Cambodia and her return in two years, but while she is living in the country she will be paid a basic wage of £240 a month and be expected to raise funds for the project.

Mrs Oxley will be joined by her husband Chris on the trip, who is also hoping to carry out volunteer work.

She said: “He is coming over with me to share the experience, but he is funding himself. He has done a qualification in teaching English as a foreign language and he has a background in engineering.”

The couple will keep a blog of their trip, which can be viewed at

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