THE downing of tools by overwhelmed midwives at Parirenyatwa Hospital has put lives of women and their babies in mortal danger as they are now going through childbirth without expert care.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
The adverse consequences are already being felt with unconfirmed reports that some babies may have died at Mbuya Nehanda maternity wing due to unavailability of expert midwives and doctors.
“My sister lost her baby yesterday and as a family we believe she did not receive enough attention (akaregererwa),” said a relative of a patient whose baby died on Wednesday night.
A tour of the facility revealed that even women who had been discharged after giving birth were displeased with the service.
“All is not well because we were being managed by student nurses. This is my third baby, but I was nervous after learning that the midwives were on strike along with doctors,” a woman, who had been discharged along with her newborn baby boy, said.
The reception was quite busy with patients checking in. Many were clearly unsettled about the fact that there were no doctors and midwives.
“I have no choice because I cannot afford private care. All my pregnancies have complications and I was referred from a clinic,” Moreen Chitenje said with a resigned voice.
Midwives at Parirenyatwa joined other healthcare personnel who are on strike to press the government for better remuneration and working conditions and on Wednesday claimed that the situation was now beyond them.
“We are overwhelmed with the continuous inflow of patients due to the fact that the other hospitals are not functioning and are working under stressful conditions with little resources,” part of a statement from midwives dated March 1 read.
The midwives also said their situation was no longer bearable for them and patients.
The role of midwives has been key in addressing the challenge of maternal deaths currently pegged at 525 mothers per 100 000 live births down from an all-time high of 960 deaths per 100 000.
Two-thirds of the deaths are avoidable if there is a regulated system which provides for the midwives and caters for their concerns which are currently not being addressed adequately.
“People are dying in hospitals because there are no doctors and nurses,” Itai Rusike, director of the Community Working Group on Health, said.
Rusike also said there was need for honest dialogue that delivers lasting solutions to the problems facing health workers while at the same time prioritising the lives of the majority poor.
“In as much as the Minister of Health, David Parirenyatwa, has tried to address the grievances of health workers, we genuinely believe that the ministry has been more reactive than proactive,” he said.
He added: “These kneejerk reactions of opening up 250 new posts for junior doctors and 2 000 for nurses at the last minute just to avoid an impending strike breeds suspicion and mistrust. The deployment of security medical personnel in the hospital is just a stop-gap measure, we need a lasting solution.”
Meanwhile, Chitungwiza Central Hospital CEO Obadiah Moyo has dispelled reports that all admitted patients had been discharged due to the critical shortage of staff.
While admitting that they were operating on skeletal staff beefed up by some Congolese and Cuban doctors, Moyo said the situation was under control.
“We have combined wards and are attending to all critical cases. Our casualty department is open as well as the maternity wing,” he said.
The situation remains dire as the government continues to dither on the demands that have been tabled by the healthcare personnel.
The strike was initiated by public hospital junior doctors some two weeks ago. Since then, senior and expert medical officers and nurses have joined in, further crippling the services of the struggling health facilities.