Are health personnel to blame?

‘WHEN I had my second pregnancy, I underwent an ultrasound at [a certain private institution] and I was told that I had two huge fibroids, which could affect my pregnancy of twins.

The doctor then prescribed some medication that I needed to take. Unfortunately, the medication was a very high dosage, which made me vomit the whole time and I began to lose weight.
“I then decided to go back to the hospital and asked the doctor to change the dosage, but the doctor refused. I lost about 13kgs in very few weeks because I was vomiting all the time, except when I was asleep.
“With my frustration, I left [that particular hospital] and went to [one of the renowned public health institutions], where I paid for high cost services despite getting below par services. At [this institution], in my weak state, I was being tossed from one place to another before I could finally get to see a doctor. Sadly, the doctor gave me an appointment for a month later, and yet my medical statement from had indicated in red ink and very visible that I had a threatened abortion,” laments Chomba Lesa-Malembeka, a mother of two.
Mrs Malembeka says after all the examinations; all the doctor at the institution did was to administer the routine fansidar, in order that she protects herself and the unborn child from getting infected with malaria.
“I, however, did not take the fansidar as I, deep down my heart, did not feel it was right to do so, especially that I was growing weaker and weaker by the day. My husband and I simply prayed to God for his intervention,” she says.
Seeing that the hospital had failed in their duty to help her heal, Mrs Malembeka and her husband resorted to try another health institution, where this time around, the wrong that was created by the previous doctors at the other institutions, was rectified.
“After thorough investigations, it was discovered that I had lost so much blood and my weight, with many other complications, was of great concern. I was then advised to visit the health institution at least three times in a week, so as to ensure that the unborn child and myself were safe and prepared for delivery.
“In all this process, I lost one of the twins and only one survived, who is now about a year old. During my delivery, with thanks to God and the health personnel at, I miraculously managed to deliver through the normal birth process unlike through the C-section I was scheduled to do so,” recalls Mrs Malembeka.
And a Lusaka husband, who has become an advocate for fighting maternal deaths, Phil Tembo, says health personnel ought to be more committed in their provision of maternal care.
“My wife almost died due to negligence by doctors and midwives in 2012. We lost our baby in the process… The last time I was at [one of the renowned health institutions], my wife stayed for close to 30 minutes when the child had protruded a hand out. I was told a male cleaner was the one who called for the doctor but there was no care or sense of emergency. The cleaner started pushing the hand back, but by that time, the baby had already suffocated.
“The baby only stayed in the [hospital’s care] for four hours and passed on. The news was more devastating to my wife such that she almost died too,” he laments.
Mr Tembo says he hates to hear a mother dying on a maternity bed whilst trying to bring forth a life, especially that children are equally a national responsibility.
According to the Zambia Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) 2013/2014, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 398 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births during the seven years preceding the 2013-14 ZDHS. This ratio is significantly lower from the MMR reported in the previous ZDHS surveys (including the 2007 ZDHS), indicating that maternal mortality has decreased in the last nearly two decades as well as in the last seven years.
Zambia Maternal Health national co-ordinator Swebby Macha says Government, through the Ministry of Health, has embarked on a National Health Strategy Plan 2017-2021, which targets to reduce maternal mortality ratio to 100 per 100,000 live births by 2021.
Dr Macha says the ministry has embarked on measures to combat the high maternal deaths.
“The key interventions that have been rolled out to combat the high maternal deaths include skilled attendant at birth, on site mentorship on emergency obstetrical and neonatal care, strengthening the maternal and neonatal referral system, focused antenatal care, provision of effective contraceptive methods, elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and comprehensive abortion care.
Dr Macha says with these interventions, the Ministry is positive that the maternal death ratio of 100 per 100,000 live births by 2021 could be realised.
“After all, no woman should die of pregnancy complications whilst giving life,” says Dr Macha.

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