The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZDHA) has expressed deep concerns that expecting mothers across the country are resorting to unsafe means of delivering due to the impending stand-off between them and the ‘indifferent’ government.
The doctors say only if government ceded to their concerns to promote better health care provision and working conditions, the situation could be averted.
ZDHA’s concern surfaced after graphic pictures emerged recently on social media of pregnant women, depicting others naked and lying on plastic mats in Harare’s Mbare suburb.
The surroundings looked unhygienic and unsafe, indicating the sad current state of Zimbabwe’s health status.
“ZDHA has witnessed with shock and condemnation sad scenes emerging from Mbare where women are giving birth in an unregistered and unsafe home. These stone age and medieval traditional medical practices are a clear result of failing health care system that needs to be urgently attended to,” said the doctors association in a statement.
Last week Thursday the national broadcaster – ZBC – on its main news bulletion reported that a woman named Mbuya Gwena, had helped women deliver babies in her home at Tagarika Flats in Mbare.
The self-proclaimed ‘midwife’ is said to have delivered about 100 babies within a week, and was cast as a heroine by the national broadcaster, for helping desperate mothers deliver in light of the ongoing doctors’ industrial action.
On its 8pm news bulletin, the following day, the national broadcaster reported that First Lady, Auxilia Mnangagwa, had paid a visit to Mbuya Gwena’s Mbare residence where she donated groceries and blankets.
ZDHA said the anticipated drop in the maternal mortality rate as espoused in our national targets of the Sustainable Development Goals will remain elusive.
“This will be an uphill task as long as unsafe obstetric practices are perpetuated, supported and praised,” said the doctors who noted that the Ministry of Health and Child Care has the Constitutional mandate to safeguard the maternal rights of Zimbabwean women.
The ZDHA urged relevant authorities to investigate this matter as a matter of urgency and address the “incapacitation in medical doctors as a lasting solution to this debilitating crisis.”
The doctors said basic obstetric packages set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are irreplaceable and an essential minimum required in running a maternity care centre as far as skills, equipment and drugs are concerned.
“Maternal and neonatal complication that may arise from home deliveries may include but are not limited to cerebral palsy, eclampsia, post-partum hemorrhage neo-natal sepsis, tetanus and HIV transmission.
“It is therefore incumbent upon any health care system to make sure that all women deliver safety in an institution where the WHO standards are met.”
ZDHA said it continued to worry how other emergencies that require surgical and specialist expertise like uterine rupture, obstructed labour, breech presentation and preterm deliveries (amongst others) are currently managed.
“We maintain that a speedy resolution of the labour dispute or standoff with medical are can avert these catastrophic experiences amongst the populace,” said the doctors union.