Negligence Or A Failing System? The Tale of Women Delivering Through Operations at Public Hospitals

Getting free antibiotics after a caesarian operation is mandatory for women. But some women are not getting them, resulting in infections, this could prove fatal.

Lerato Khumalo* from Phakama Suburb in Gwanda gave birth to her third child in October 2020 last year through a caesarian operation.

She was not prepared for the nightmare, which she attributes to negligence from the hospital staff. Two weeks after delivery, Khumalo’s operated area developed an infection traced back to her failure to get antibiotics during her three-day stay at the hospital.

Khumalo says the pain which followed was unbearable, and about five months later, after delivering her baby, the pain is persisting. This was her first experience in a public hospital. She sought private health care with the first two pregnancies, care she could not afford this time around.

“I had to rely on a doctor provided for me by the hospital, and after my caesarian operation, I was admitted to the maternity ward for recovery. On the first day, I was still heavily sedated and trying to get my senses back. At the end of the second day, I became worried after realising that I hadn’t been given any antibiotics since I had returned from the theatre. I noticed that two other women who had also delivered through cesarean were not given either,” says Khumalo.

After enquiring with a nurse on day three of her hospital admission, she was given an injection. Just before her discharge, on the next day, she was given antibiotics to take from home. When her operation developed an infection, Khumalo says she had to make endless trips to hospital for treatment and lost large sums of money buying medication from pharmacies.

Several patients that are admitted into public health institutions have complained of poor service delivery from hospital staff. Private health facilities are preferable, but most people cannot afford the services due to low income and economic challenges.

To reduce maternal deaths and infant mortality rate, the government declared that maternal services should be free. However, women who turn to public health institutions across the country have been subjected to poor service delivery. Other challenges that the patients have faced include poor diets, limited space, hospital staff negligence, and a shortage of drugs.

Alice Moyo* from Spitzkop North Suburb in Gwanda, who gave birth to her second child in August 2020, says her operation had to be redone after developing an infection. She says she did not have a problem during her first caesarean. After her first delivery, Moyo recalls receiving her antibiotics three times a day during her three-day stay at the hospital. Moyo says her experience the second time around was completely different.

“When you are in the maternity ward, no one cares about you or your recovery,” says Moyo.

“As a patient, I had to ensure that I received my painkillers on time as no nurse was concerned. At some point, we were left in the ward without a single nurse. As patients that were coming from the theatre, we were just being treated like patients that had delivered normally,” she says.

Moyo says she did not receive any antibiotics during her three-day stay at the hospital and assumed that the system had changed as it had been long since she gave birth to her firstborn child. She says she later discovered how wrong her assumption was after her operation developed an infection.

“The health system is failing us. It seems to get quality service one needs cash or know someone who works at the hospital. Could the government please come to our rescue and ensure that we get good service delivery. If hospitals don’t have enough resources, could they be equipped, but if it’s the doing of staff members, could they be investigated because they must serve us the public,” she says.

Moyo believes that if the government cannot afford to sustain free maternal health services, the public should be informed so that patients can mobilise the necessary funds instead of getting poor service delivery.

Gwanda Provincial Hospital acting medical superintendent Dr Blessing Gwarimbo says it is mandatory for patients recovering after caesarean operations to receive antibiotics. He says if the patients do not receive the medication, they are susceptible to infections, resulting in death.

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey of 2019, Zimbabwe has a maternal mortality ratio of 462 deaths per 100,000 live births. Accurate data on how women and their babies die, causes of death, and the number of women and babies who die remain a challenge for the country.

Dr Gwarimbo says recovering mothers should receive this life saving medication for free.

“We have the antibiotics, and the patients should receive them for free during their stay at the hospital after delivery. They have to be administered three times a day, either by drip or injection. If some patients are not getting the medication, it’s a grave error from our staff, and the matter has to be looked into,” he says.

Dr Gwarimbo says at times, as a hospital, they have a shortage of some commodities used during the caesarean process, and patients have to buy them.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin