Last week, Daily Monitor columnist Dr Muniini K. Mulera wrote a moving article about Florence Twikirize Twijukye, who died as a result of preventable complications of pregnancy.
This was not just Twijukye’s story. It was the tale of a healthcare system where people survive on hope and faith. It was the story of the Ugandan woman of child-bearing age.
Twijukye, according to the article (“Florence Twikirize’s death in labour is a case of inexcusable negligence – Daily Monitor July 21), received regular antenatal care and monitoring by Dr Pius Ruhemurana, her obstetrician in Kabale. As she approached her delivery date, she even sought assessment at Kabale Regional Referral Hospital.
However, all went wrong after Twikirize felt the onset of labour and went to Kabale hospital: “A midwife informed her that the baby’s heart was not beating… but the doctor on duty was neither called nor informed about the patient. Twikirize was not examined. The partogram (a standard graphical record that tracks the progress of labour) was not properly followed… and [the] night nurse was very rude to the patient,” wrote Dr Mulera.
The midwife only called the doctor after realising the patient was bleeding a lot. It was too late. Twikirize was found to have had a major rupture of the uterus, with a dead baby. They could not save her life.
Last Saturday, this newspaper reported that government hospitals, especially upcountry, have become deathtraps for pregnant women and their unborn babies because of negligent health workers. Two pregnant women – Lucia Busigye, 23, and Jackline Tumwekwase, 33, both residents of Hakibale Sub-county in Kabarole District – died of labour complications due to lack of care by the nurses. Several other cases have been reported in the media.
Beyond promises by hospital administration that investigations would be done and corrective measures taken, it is apparent that nobody in authority really cares. Otherwise, practical measure would have been taken to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for Ugandan women.
Granted, there are challenges in the health sector such as poor pay and staff shortage; but these should not in any way come in the way of saving lives. Negligence of duty is simply inexcusable!
As Dr Mulera aptly summed it: “Uganda’s current maternal mortality ratio of 438 per 100,000 live births can be reduced to less than 30 per 100,000 in the next 15-20 years… The key strategies that are central to this desired change include an attitudinal change on the part of the professionals. Without this, all other measures will be hard to implement.”