Johannesburg — Kenyans have taken to Twitter to share stories of their experiences in maternal wards under the hashtag #MaternalNegligenceKE and MaternalNegligence after one vlogger who goes by the name Mama Boo Boo shared her traumatic experience when she gave birth.
Her nightmare began when she discovered her gynaecologist was away because his daughter had an accident and the only doctors available were the two on-call in-house gynaecologists. She had a bit of a stand-off with the receptionist who argued with her about whether she was in labour.
The doctor told her there were only two theaters available that day and the only time she could get a cesarean section done was 5.5 hours after being declared an emergency. During an examination the doctor discovered that the baby "had pooped inside her" and she needed an emergency C-section as the baby was in distress. He told her family to pay the deposit and open her in-patient file so that she could be booked for theatre. About 60 women had come to have their babies delivered by two doctors.
At that time only two operating rooms were available, so she had sit and wait in "excruciating pain with no epidural in sight". She ended up giving birth naturally, and from there everything went downhill. She ended up with a fistula, surgery after surgery to fix one complication after the other and an inflated bill from the complicated birth.
The kind of fistula she had is called Recto-Vaginal Fistula (RVF). That's when there's a hole that links the vagina and rectum allowing gas and faeces to pass through each time. How did she get fistula? When she was pressured by nurses to go to the newborn units to take care of her baby, she had to sit on hard hospital chairs for long periods, pumping milk, despite her injuries. Her stitches ripped. When she complained about severe pain, she says no one listened to her.
It is an open secret that health care in Kenya costs an arm and a leg which has resulted in a number of patients being detained for failing to settle their bills.
Among the poorest in Kenya, only 3% have health insurance, which is provided by the National Hospital Insurance Fund. Among the wealthiest, many who also have private cover, this rises to 42%, indicating again that the poorest are at risk of being left behind even further, and do not have an appropriate safety-net to fall back on.
Five years ago, First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, launched the "Beyond Zero" campaign to eradicate preventable maternal and child mortality. The initiative has drawn support and criticism in equal measure from Kenyans, and it has earned this criticism by ignoring a crucial aspect of women's health - access to safe abortion.
Inaccessible abortion services have resulted in many Kenyans ending up in debt or worse dead due to maternal negligence that is rife in hospitals all around the country.
Read Mama Boo Boo's Twitter thread here:
Mama Boo Boo @ChantellePetit: For those who don't know my story (a thread): I gave birth on the 1st of January 2019 to a beautiful baby girl completely unaware of what the following days had in store for us both. Both Boo Boo and I had complications for a whole month #MaternalNegligence
Dozens of Twitter users commented on the thread, which led to it trending in Kenya:
is just my concept @Ninanyce - Mamacita will keep running marathons for Maternal Health but nothing will improve. And we keep getting scammed, while mothers and children suffer. #MaternalNegligence
Paul Mutuma @plinguli - its sad and truth though, the so called UHC in the BIG4 Agenda is just a dream..if you are NOT rich or employed by govt/organisation with the best insurance cover. you are at the mercy of Gods grace #MaternalNegligence #UkweliWaMambo
Amdany @Bushfeket - People should just respect mothers. Nuff said #MaternalNegligence
Janice Nawal @janice_nawal - The fact that people need to pay for private doctors for child birth so that something doesnt go wrong is insane. Training midwives might actually be the way to go as this will be their only job so they aren't over stretched #MaternalNegligenceKE