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"End of an era for a special Trinidad maternity centre"
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"End of an era for a special Trinidad maternity centre"

Arianne St LouisA maternity centre in Trinidad looks set to close, marking the end of several decades of bringing life into this world. Twenty-three year-old Arianne St Louis, who has a personal debt to its owners and staff, reports.

Amicus Maternity Center first opened its doors to women on June 5th 1970. It was the first midwife-operated birthing centre in Trinidad at that time.

The founder, Mrs Venus Mark, fondly known as ‘Nurse Mark’, selected a symbolic name for her establishment: ‘Amicus’ which is Latin for friend. She described a midwife as “a friendly, caring professional that aids childbearing women before, during and after childbirth.”

Mrs Mark is one of the founding members of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Midwives (TTAM). Her dream of allowing patients to experience full midwifery care was a revolutionary concept in 1970.

No such facility existed or had ever been conceptualised in Trinidad and Tobago. As a result, Venus expanded the scope of midwifery skills; she believed that they were capable of running a fully functional clinic that dealt with tasks associated with pre and post natal care, a belief proven true over the years.

Amicus has come a long way from its inception. After Mrs Mark’s retirement in 1999 her daughter Dr Lisa Mark took the helm. Lisa was inspired by her mother’s work and subsequently sought higher education in the US before returning home hoping to make a difference.

In addition to her master’s degree in public health, Dr Mark grew up witnessing and learning from her mother’s work. Her early childhood exposure to midwifery practices strongly influenced her decision to become an specialist. As such, Lisa understands midwives’ unique temperament having spent most of her life surrounded by them.

Amicus’ interior is adorned with pictures of hundreds of babies born there between 1970 and 2008.

However, as of mid-2008 Amicus began to experience difficulties from which it could not recover. In late 2009 tragedy struck and Amicus’ incident free record was tarnished. A woman died en route to the hospital from birth-related complications.

Furthermore, on the eve of their 38th anniversary, the quality of the patient care that was their signature began to deteriorate.  In an interview Dr Mark said that finding dedicated, honest and reliable employees was difficult.

“As the older midwives retired, I struggled to find passionate, caring and professional replacements,” she says. “Most people in the field today are only concerned about getting paid. They don’t really care about the patients, and it is reflected in the negative feedback we’ve gotten.”

Amicus once offered an array of pre and post-natal services all aimed at preserving women’s health.  At present, they no longer deliver babies and the building has been put on the market for sale. Mrs Mark has migrated to the US and Dr Mark will soon follow.

When asked what advice she could impart, Dr Mark says: “If you want to thrive in this business, you have to work very hard, you must be dedicated, you must love what you do and, most of all, quality patient care is priority.”

To those who were born at the establishment, like me, it is a terrible loss. It is very unfortunate that this once prestigious business is to crumble.

While the golden era of Amicus draws to an end, its legacy was a source of inspiration for the newly constructed Mamatoto Maternity and Resource Center.

Mamatoto is Swahili for mother baby. They offer traditional midwifery and Birth Doula’s (women who offers emotional and practical support to couples throughout pregnancy) and much more. Its founders have built upon the rich legacy left by Mrs and Dr Mark.

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Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. All articles are published in a spirit of improving dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

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