Midwifery is a duty that requires unwavering commitment

By Lahja Nashuuta

INTERNATIONAL Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every May 12 to honour the contributions made by the nurses in our society.

But as we observe the day, it is important to restate the significant role of nurses toward achieving sustainable development goals, which is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030.

The day should also be a platform whereby nurses, especially midwives, should be motivated to continue with the passion of their sacred duties and to ensure no baby or mother dies while giving birth due to negligence.

Midwifery is a specialty of a registered nurse who has had training in obstetrics and works under the supervision of an obstetrician. The main function is assisting women with labour and childbirth.

Although governments have invested in capacity building and making sure there is enough personnel in that field, midwives attitudes toward the job continue to be worrisome resulting in increased maternal mortality rates.

In Namibia six babies die every day and every fifth day a mother dies due to pregnancy-related complications.

The head of obstetrics and gynaecology for Katutura and Windhoek Central hospitals, Dr Shonag Mackenzie, revealed during the International Nurses Day commemorations at University of Namibia that 1 154 cases were fresh stillbirths recorded in 2015 were marcerated (a term used to describe autolytic changes which occur when the foetus remains in utero after its demise) stillbirths, while 2 315 were neonatal deaths. She said most deaths were avoidable.

Stories of midwife nurses reneging on their duties leading to unnecessary deaths are abound.

That might include the life of a woman who died at the Katima Mulilo Hospital end of last December after giving birth unassisted, because nurses allegedly refused to help her.

Her cousin, Michael Mwilima narrated that when Susan was in pain she asked for help from the nurses but they allegedly accused her of faking labour pains to get attention.

“She was crying for help but the nurses who were all at the reception did not attend to her at all. She gave birth on her own to a baby boy and died soon afterwards,” said Mwilima.

In Oshana region, Adelheid Jacob (28) is another heartbroken mother who lost her baby years back after hospital nurses failed to respond to her while in labour.

On that fateful night, nurses at a local hospital maternity ward told her to walk around in the maternity ward as it would help her deliver quickly.

She said she did so but became tired and sat down on a bench near the ward office where the nurses were sitting and chatting.

Narrating her story to a local newspaper, Jacob said while sitting there she felt that she was about to give birth and she called for help from the nurses who were a metre away from where she was.

She claims the nurses refused to help her and instead instructed her to walk herself.

Jacob said she grabbed a passing nurse by the arm and begged her to help her to the delivery room, but she shook her hand off and told her to walk by herself.

Another pregnant woman who was on her way to the delivery room tried to assist and while she was trying to stand up the baby dropped to the floor, head first.

Jacob said one other nurse who saw the incident came to assist and called on her colleagues to help.

A doctor was subsequently called who checked on the baby and instructed the nurses to take the baby to the intensive care unit, where the baby died

Kee Kauzunda, a 39-year-old  a resident of Okahandja did not only  lost her unborn baby, but the mother of three also lost her uterus and any chances of giving birth in future through what she ascribed as negligence by medical personnel at the hospital.

Of course, not all nurses and midwives are bad. There are those that don’t need to be reminded of the positive impact they have on the lives of their patients, families, and loved ones every day but there are those that need to be reminded to carry their profession with passion.

According to the World Health Organisation, every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.  The statistics further reveal that 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.

It was then recommended that skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies.

May 2017
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