An Interview with Executive Director Dr. Sevak Avagyan
QUESTION: Soon, the ARS “Mother-&-Child” Health Center will enter its 12th year of operation, and its Birthing Center will celebrate its 4th anniversary. What kind of statistics can you give us about this growing institution, particularly in terms of its recent additions and improvemen’s to its multiple services.
DR. SEVAK AVAGYAN: For almost 12 years now, across the earthquake ravaged area of Akhurian, the ARS “Mother-&-Child” Health Center is servicing the health needs of children between the ages of 0 to 18 — additionally, over the last 4 years, it has been offering maternity services at its Birthing Center, a fact, that relates significantly to the health care network of not only the Shirak province, but across the Republic of Armenia, as well.
Let me state, that the health issues of children and women are established priorities of the RoA Government and have important strategic ramifications concerning the future of the country. We can mention with pride, that the Armenian Relief Society actively participates in the implementation of these prioritized programs of national significance through its “Mother-&-Child” Health and Birthing Center. Thus, by January 22, 2009, 4,013 births were registered at the Maternity Ward. The number of deliveries is marking an increase every year: while 1,081 births were registered in 2007, that annual rate was 1,153 in 2008 ‘s an increase of 72 deliveries. Gynecological surgeries numbered 172 in 2007, while in 2008, they reached 229: Caesarian deliveries were 162 in 2007, while in 2008, they numbered 208. No maternal mortality has been registered at the Center and the rate of infant mortality remains lower than the national average.
It is encouraging to see, that with the occurrence of twins, multiple births keep pace with the trend: 28 in number, as well as one case of triplets in 2008, adding three healthy girls to the overall numbers. Only two such births having, thus far, been registered across the Republic ‘s one of them at our Birthing Center. It is sad to note, that the family of the triplets, already parents of one child, lived in a temporary shelter, in dire circumstances. This is where the ARS Akhurian Center played an important role in solving this problem. As a result of many televised appeals initiated by the ARS, this case was given the needed publicity, which prompted the state to donate, on the New Year’s Eve, a well equipped 3-room house to the family, in the center of Gyumri, while the ARS “Mother-&-Child” Center donated a much needed washing machine.
Q: What are the distinctive services rendered by the ARS “Mother-&-Child” Health Center to the regional population?
S.A.: Our Center has the region’s only computerized CAT Scan machine which services not only the northern sector of the Republic, but the population of Javakhk as well. Also, the only Mammography machine in Shirak is at our Center, carrying the entire weight of early diagnosis of breast cancer in the province.
Over the past year, divisions of Family Care and Dentistry have been added to the existing services, broadening the scope and quality of the Center’s activity.
Q: The “Mother-&-Child” Health Center operates under the auspices of the ARS. Do other Armenian organizations bring their assistance to the Center’s activities? Do you cooperate with non-Armenian organizations?
S.A.: The Center’s uninterrupted activity is made possible by the continuous moral and financial support of the world-wide ARS family, from its Central Executive Board to its growing regional entities and their boards, chapters and membership. Such solid support and continuous activity caught the attention of both governmental and private organizational circles. Over the past 12 years, the ARS has allotted around $5,000,000 to the construction and equipment of the “Mother-&-Child” Health Center and its later addition, the Birthing Center.
Starting from the 2nd half of 2008, the government is subsidizing each birth with the sum of 90,000 dram (around $300). The Center is included in the register of state-approved maternity wards.
Among the supportive pan-Armenian organizations, SOS Armenie Cote d’Azur has donated to the Center the computerized CAT Scan machine, and the Armenian General Benevolent Union has given the Echogram machine.
The Center enjoys the cooperation of all international health organizations active in Armenia, especially UNICEF, which supplies the center with all that is necessary for various vaccinations and coordinates with the Center all programs for the vaccination of the children in the area.
Q: How are the relations of the Center with the people of the region and the provincial government?
S.A.: For the needy population of the area, the Center provides essentially free health care ‘s sometimes at a nominal fee. Funds received by the Center in support of the birthing facilities, in reality do not cover the necessary expenses, therefore, we welcome the ARS Central Executive’s “Sponsor-A-Birth” program which allows us to enhance our services’ volume and quality. Through this program, any individual can sponsor a birth at our Center with a donation of $150
It is important for us not only to maintain the high standards and quality of our medical services, but also to continue effecting our mission and prominence in the province and generally in the health care structure of the country. The visits of the Catholicos of All Armenia’s, members of the local government, the First Lady of the Republic, the Minister of Health, and many other officials, as well as the many high credentials we have received fill us with both pride and a sense of indebtedness
The staff of the Center, with a deep trust in the commitment of the Armenian Relief Society to its humanitarian mission, keeps working, devoted to the health care of a population traumatized by the 1988 earthquake’s devastation.
Q: What are the immediate problems that need to be solved in order to smooth the way for the success of present and future programs.
S.A.: The Center has several plans for the future, related to the expansion of facilities: Construction of a second floor for the Birthing Center, laundry room, expanded kitchen facilities, etc. We are also in need of updated medical equipment. Let us not forget, that many units are worn out after twelve years of constant use.
On this occasion, I’d like to appeal to our fellow Armenia’s, to support the Akhurian “Mother-&-Child Health Center by sending their contributions through the ARS Central Office in Boston.