NDANGWA MWITTAH, Choma
IMAGINE going to a hospital to nurse a patient and you end up being hospitalised too?
That is the situation and risk that those that go to nurse their relatives at the Choma General Hospital are exposed to.
The only mothers’ shelter at the institution lacks many fundamentals, let alone mere basics such as electricity, mattresses, and also convenience rooms.
Yet it still gives shelter to those nursing their loved ones.
One such person is Maureen Munsaka, an elderly woman, of Chief Singani’s area in Choma.
She too is nursing two people at the hospital.
One is her daughter who has a fractured ankle and the other one is Lweendo, her daughter-in-law who is pregnant and is past her expected date of delivery (EDD).
In the midst of tending to the sick, Mrs Munsaka, who has been at the hospital for over a week, has had to fend off a number of challenges.
“As you can see my son, we are equally suffering here,” she tells this reporter as she points to the floor where she and other nursing mothers sleep.
All those tending to their relatives at the hospitals sleep on the floor, on card boxes and also on mats made from sack bags.
“When I came here I didn’t know that I was going to stay here this long. It has now been one week and it hasn’t been an easy one,” she explains.
Indeed, for anyone that’s been there, it can be clear to feel for the men and women that are harboured at this place.
Sleeping isn’t the only problem.
The shelter, which is located on the fringes of the hospital premises, is not electrified. It gets dark and scary at night.
“It’s very far from the maternity ward and we don’t even have a guard here. So, even moving back and forth in the night is quite tricky. We fear of being attacked,” Mrs Munsaka adds.
Sitting in a corner, in the same room, is another lady, Oprina Sichoombe of Choma’s Dimbwe village.
She is pregnant.
“I have been here for two weeks now. I came here to be near the hospital when the time for giving birth comes since Dimbwe is very far and taxis there are not as accessible as here,” she says.
Her predicament is pretty much the same as that of Mrs Munsaka.
“We have many challenges here. We have to put up with conditions such as aching backs and ribs from sleeping on the floor,” she says.
Another woman, only identified as Saliya, complains about the non-availability of sanitation facilities at the shelter.
“We all depend on that dilapidated structure,” she points.
She has been there the longest.
She, too, just like many of the ‘mothers’ in the shelter, is nursing a pregnant daughter.
“I don’t know how she mixed up the dates, but upto now she hasn’t given birth. We have been here for over a month now. It has even started to prove to be a costly endeavour,” she says.
Saliya even makes scrubbing towels and sells, in an effort to cushion the costs that have come with their prolonged stay at the hospital.
The structure was constructed and donated to the hospital by Spar Choma. And acting Choma General Hospital superintendent David Linyama is aware of the challenges that the ‘mothers’ in the shelter are facing.
Efforts are being made to lobby for funds to at least have the shelter stocked with both bunk beds and mattresses.
“There is a lot that needs to be done here actually. We have realised also that the space is too small and we are trying everything we can to have the place attended to. These are not good conditions to live in actually,” he said.
The shelter, which has compartments, is shared by both males and females.
And Javan Simoloka, the mayor of the municipality of Choma who recently toured the shelter after cleaning the premises during a Keep Choma Clean campaign exercise, sympathises with the women and promised to look into the matter, in due course.
“This is quite sad. The space is too small and it seems these people are crowded. This environment is not conducive. As a council, we will try and see if we can come and help in a small way,” he said.
For now, until such a time when the shelter is furnished, the mothers will have to make do with what’s there.