Following unconfirmed reports of three mothers who died out of negligence of health workers at Lyantonde Hospital from a partner organisation, UNHCO set off to verify the information given.
The District Chairperson’s View:
The first stop was at the Lyantonde District Offices where we met the LC V Chairperson to share with us what he knew about the maternal deaths. The Chairperson informed us that he had heard of the allegations against the health workers but was waiting for a detailed report of the maternal death incidences from the District Health Officer. He however noted that there is a lack of follow-up by doctors who take-up treatment of pregnant mothers but along the way never follow-up.
“This is a doctor who operates on a mother. The mother is dumped in a maternity ward and she reaches at the time of being discharged when the same doctor who did the caesarean has never seen this mother again. This is a big shame. ” – District Chairman, Lyantonde District
“We are hampered by public standing orders. When we try to get the culprits punished, our hands are tied” – District Chairman, Lyantonde District
At Lyantonde Hospital
Our next stop was at Lyantonde Hospital where we intended to speak to the Hospital Administrator. Unfortunately he was engaged in a meeting. Efforts to speak to the District Health Officer were also futile.
Fortunately, we talked to the PMTCT In-Charge at the Hospital who informed us that she is not aware of the specific deaths in question but knew of some isolated cases that occurred mid last year (2011) and some at the beginning of the year. She shared with us her views on why some mothers lose their lives and babies during pregnancy: “They come at a stage wher we can’t save them. For example, last month there were two mothers who died on arrival at the hospital due to retained placentas. Also some mothers do not share with us all the information about their health. In this case, one died due to ‘coagulation defect’. Though she came early and could have been saved, she did not disclose that she had this defect. Unfortunately the hospital lacked platelets that could have saved her.”
She however denied allegations of negligence at the hospital and further emphasized that mothers always report to the hospital when it is too late.
Visiting the Victims’ Homes
The team visited two of the victims at their homes to get first hand information of their experiences at the health centre.
The Case of Sanyu Kasaga:
The first case is of 25 year-old Sanyu Kasaga of Bitooke-Bisalire village, Malongo sub-county in Lwengo district. Sanyu was taken to Lyantonde Hospital in labor where she was attended to by the health workers. Later, the same day her situation worsened and she was referred to Mbarara Hospital as, according to the information given to her husband, the Hospital lacked the appropriate equipment to handle her worsening situation. As they departed, Sanyu had a boda-boad accident right at the Hospital Gate. The husband tried to get his pregnant wife re-admitted in vain. The hospital staff simply told them to go Mbarara Hospital as fast they could. Half-way to Mbarara, Sarah breathed her last and died on road-side. Confused and frustrated, the husband took the body back home where his neighbors advised him not to bury the dead wife’s body together with that of the baby who was still in the womb. The family then hired the services of a local grave digger to carry-out the ‘surgery’ to remove the baby which was apparently done and eventually the two victims were buried. Sanyu left behind three children.
However, just before the burial, the police learnt about the case and arrested the doctor that had attended to the patient. Apparently he was released a few days later because the number of patients at the Hospital was increasing and there was no other doctor to attend to them.
The team also found out that Lyantonde Hospital does not have an Ambulance which is a probable contributor to the increasing number of deaths.
The Case of Sarah Nalukwago
42 year-old Nalukwago Sarah first complained of sharp pains in the abdomen and a feeling that the baby was not moving in her womb. This bothered her and together with the her husband, Mr. Jackson Bareebe decided to seek medical care. The two then left their home in Kabusirabo-A village, Malong sub-county in Lwengo district to a health center in Kyazanga – a neighboring town. In Kyazanga, they were referred to Lyantonde Hospital where they immediately set-off to.
In his own words, Jackson told us this; “When we got to the hospital, we could not readily find a health worker to talk to. When we finally got someone to attend to us, my wife was told to undergo an ultra-sound scan for which I had to part with UGX 20,000 for it to be done. However, we were given the results the following morning. The baby had died in the womb. I tried to enquire whether they could at least operate on her and remove the baby but my plea fell on deaf ears Around 1pm the same day, my wife became very sick. That’s when the health workers got concerned and as she struggled to breath she was put on emergency oxygen. Moments later she died”.
That is the story of how Sarah’s six children lost their mother.