News Release

Newborns receive specialized care in Montenegro

A volunteer medical team from The Church of Jesus Christ trains local nurses and doctors

More than 65 maternal and newborn nurses and physicians in the Balkan nation of Montenegro are better equipped to care for infants after a two-week, cost-free training conference sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and presented by a volunteer team of medical specialists. The participants are now trained to provide more effective newborn care and to recognize and treat babies with breathing problems, the single greatest cause of newborn mortality in the world.

At the very same time that personnel in a hospital’s newborn nursery were being trained on specialized equipment for babies in respiratory distress, a young mother in the delivery suite was giving birth to twins with those exact symptoms.   

 Dan Woodhead, the team’s respiratory therapist trainer, had not expected that emergency, but under his direction and guidance the nursery charge nurse and a colleague quickly set up the equipment and initiated treatment for both babies. “I assisted when needed, which was very little, and they did a fabulous job,” Dan remembers. “Once the (breathing equipment) was on the infants they responded really well to the therapy, which was good for the staff to witness.” Almost 20 nurses and physicians “nervously but excitedly” looked on as the staff successfully applied their new skills.   

 This training is continuing beyond the conclusion of the conference. Participants are now training colleagues in the nine facilities throughout the country where babies are born. The Church has donated significant equipment and supplies to the country’s health care system to ensure long-term, on-going supportive supervision. The Church is working in conjunction with UNICEF and the nation’s Ministry of Health to ensure that the “Train the Trainer” programme has a lasting impact.

 “Countries all over the world have seen significant improvements in infant mortality and morbidity as they’ve implemented these programmes,” says Marcia Bennett, team leader for the conference with her husband, retired anesthesiologist George Bennett. The Bennetts have been part of this effort since the very beginning. 

 The Church has sponsored Maternal and Newborn Care (MNC) projects for more than 20 years and is widely regarded as one of the leading providers of MNC training in the world. The Bennetts, just one of several skilled full-time missionary couples leading medical teams for the Church, have run programmes in more than 20 nations, training thousands of caregivers.

The Bennetts look back on 20 years of missionary service with nothing but gratitude. “Having been given this great opportunity to help save and improve the lives of babies and mothers throughout the world,” Marcia says, “has been the experience of a lifetime.”    

The Montenegro trip was more than a year in the making and wouldn’t have happened without the support and advocacy of Ida Ferdinandi (UNICEF) and Milica Dukic (Montenegro Ministry of Health), according to Marcia Bennett.

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