Many people have tended to attribute maternal deaths in Uganda to poor attitude of midwives, negligence, absenteeism and stealing of medicines from the health facilities.
What is not usually considered is the great work done by midwives to save mothers and their babies. The impression created is like a maternal death is a cause for celebration to the midwife.
Death affects everybody. Ideally, after occurrence of a maternal death, a midwife on duty should be given at least 48 hours of rest to recover from the trauma and shock due this death.
But this is not the case because of gross understaffing in many health facilities. In many Health Centre IIs, the midwife is forced to continue with the days' work as if nothing happened. A similar scenario is present in larger facilities, where there are human resource constraints. This is just a snip of the crisis of our health services.
Whereas more research is needed on the reasons as to why midwives are alleged to be rude and negligent, the current working environment places a heavy burden on the midwives. The health of a midwife is never considered by policy markers and the general public.
Some of the broader community factors contributing to maternal deaths include: ignorance of the importance of regular antenatal care attendance and good nutrition during pregnancy; lack of suffi cient sexual education to young parents; poor health seeking behaviours; ignorance on what to do when labour begins; the chronic stockout of drugs/supplies and the inadequate infrastructure.
There are stories where midwives resort to using candles or lighting from a mobile phone when conducting deliveries at night. To me these are heroes.
Solving the problem needs improving infrastructure, equipping health centres with relevant drugs and appliances. Increase on the staffi ng so that every delivery is attended to by two midwives and improve on the salary for health workers. At every district, have a midwife as a focal person for maternity.
The writer is a Nursing Officer