Bleeding after childbirth is life-threatening and is the leading cause of maternal death globally. In the developing world, 1.2% of births result in a post-partum haemorrhage, and of those cases, 3% result in death for the new mother.
Oxytocin is one of the best ways to treat post-partum haemorrhage, but it must be administered as quickly as possible to ensure it’s effective. It’s a commonly available medication in Western nations, but can be hard to come by in remote locations such as Vanuatu, in the South Pacific.
Limited access to medication in Vanuatu is compounded by the physical challenges faced by nurses. Geographic isolation, limited infrastructure, and dense jungles dramatically impact the efforts of local healthcare workers. The weather plays havoc with their ability to visit local communities quickly.
Limited to no reliable power sources mean vaccines and critical medications can’t be stored or transported effectively and don’t maintain their correct temperatures.
While conducting test flights on Epi Island, one of the islands that make up the archipelago of Vanuatu, a nurse in a small village urgently needed to provide Oxytocin to a new mother who was experiencing severe post-birth bleeding.
For the nurse, Maria, to access an emergency dose of Oxytocin, she would need to send the mother and her newborn baby to a hospital in Vaemali, 40kms away, to be treated. It’s generally a two-day round trip, requiring multiple boat trips, which are frequently cancelled due to poor weather and can be cost-prohibitive. It would also require travelling on poorly-maintained roads, often affected by the tropical Vanuatuan weather.
Instead of needing to send the new mother on a treacherous, multi-day journey, Maria was able to contact the hospital and schedule an emergency delivery of Oxytocin direct to the village.
Dispatchers at the hospital safely loaded the required dose into the payload carrier, knowing it would be maintained at the right temperature for the entire trip. Working with the flight operations team based in Vaemali, the flight was authorised and launched within 5 minutes of receiving Maria’s plea for help. The flight arrived in just 20 minutes and Maria was able to administer the dose soon after it arrived.
The new mother’s condition stabilised soon after and she was able to be released, along with her new baby.