Bamburgh WI, May meeting

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LEAKY HOSPITALS: Maybe it was the title of our talk in May that put our members off.

After all Leaking Hospitalcould have a few meanings – was our NHS having problems with the roof or could it be connected with ourselves and one of those problems we would rather not discuss.

In fact it was indeed the latter and those of you who were put off missed a very informative talk.

In 2004 our speaker Mrs Beryl Parr accompanied her husband, an engineer to Ethiopia where he was working in a remote district on projects building roads and bridges.

Like many wives overseas she looked around to see if there were any charities that might need her help.

She came across newspaper articles regarding the work of the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Abbaba which was started in 1959 after Drs Reginald and Catherine Hamblin came to the city hospital in reply to an advertisement in the Lancet. The problems they came across appalled them.

Patients, mainly young women and girls as young as 11 or 12 were suffering from obstetric fistula caused by an obstructed labour for which in under developed countries no help such as a Caesarean section was available.

The women could be in labour for four/five days, the baby usually dies and if the mother survives she is left with extensive tissue damage and doubly incontinent.

They are then shunned by their husbands and family and left isolated and resort to begging.

Drs Hamblin said they had never encountered fistula before and their investigations led them back to the 1850s.

Obviously in the western world developments in obstetric care had eliminated such problems.

Interestingly there was a Fistula Hospital in New York in 1880s which must have been started to deal with so many people arriving from Europe and beyond to start a new life, but many of them must have been young girls married off too early. By 1890 this was closed as better maternity and midwifery was provided.

The first Fistula Hospital was so successful and donations of money and practical help such as doctors and nurses giving up a few weeks of their holidays to go and work, that smaller clinics have opened in the country.

Such an interesting afternoon and we all had so many questions that Beryl and her husband hardly had time to eat their tea.

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, June 13, when we will have a cream tea.