21 May 2012

Zimbabwe: Bed Shortages Put New Mothers At Risk

A shortage of beds at Harare Central Hospitals has forced authorities to discharge mothers who would have delivered babies on the same day instead of the recommended three days. An average of 50 babies are born daily at the hospital.

The new mothers are discharged on the same day and they do not get post-natal care as recommended.

Staff at the maternity hospital, said unavailability of small but basic equipment such as thermometers, blood pressure machines, fetoscope, cadiotocograph (used to record a fetal heartbeat) and resuscitates, among other equipment, remained obstacles to proper healthcare. Government acknowledges the problems facing public health institutions and is working flat out to equip them.

Ministry of Health and Child Welfare secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji said the situation at Harare Hospital's maternity unit was not peculiar to the hospital but was being experienced at most public health institutions.

He, however, said Government was working towards equipping all its institutions countrywide through the Health Transition Fund launched last year.

"We have most of those things listed as priorities in the HTF and once modalities of disbursing the raised money are finalized we would be buying the equipment for our institutions," said Dr Gwinji.

Addressing stakeholders attending Harare Hospital's Open day recently, chief executive Ms Peggy Zvavamwe said conditions at the institution were worsening.

Infrastructure had not developed to match the growing burden of care.

"We are running short of office space, storage space and even ward space. The wards are overflowing with very sick patients," she said.

Ms Zvavamwe said at one point they had a difficult time when they recorded 86 deliveries in just one day.

Instead of an establishment of 158 midwives, there are only 64 posts filled.

This situation sees each midwife assisting an average of 10 women per-day.

"This means if it happens that there are two serious cases needing attention at the same time this midwife cannot attend to both of them but only one. If both cases are life threatening, one life is already at stake," said Joice Willis sister-in-charge two in the maternity department.

She said this scenario is worsened by unavailability of the necessary equipment in the wards.

"Under normal circumstances, every cubicle is supposed to have its own thermometers, BP machines, cadiotocographs and resuscitates, but as things stand we do not have all those things. We only have two resuscitates for the whole of this wing. We actually give each other chances to put babies on the resuscitates, risking cross infections," said a nurse in the maternity department who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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