FIVE MUMS TO A BED

Your baby's dead so stop disturbing me — Nurse

The doctor put my babies in a box. I could see them moving inside, says mum

In Summary

• Women from informal settlements complain about verbal and physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, discrimination, poor health system and even tribalism.  

• KMA chief says all doctors and nurses should have name tags so they can be held accountable.

Mothers from Korogocho, Mukuru and Kibera slums share harrowing stories of medical incompetence, indifference and cruelty that led to the deaths of heir newborns. They addressed a forum on Thursday.
INHUMANE: Mothers from Korogocho, Mukuru and Kibera slums share harrowing stories of medical incompetence, indifference and cruelty that led to the deaths of heir newborns. They addressed a forum on Thursday.
Image: COURTESY

"Your baby is dead so stop disturbing me. Take a ball of cotton wool and wipe yourself."

That’s what a nurse in a public hospital told Mitchelle Hella, 26, from Korogocho slum. She was expecting her second child and thought the process would be simple, like her first delivery.

I was left unattended to and delivered the baby by myself because the medical response was not fast enough. My baby stopped breathing and died.
Michelle Hella

“I was on my way to church on a July morning when I felt labour pains. At the hospital, the doctors insisted that I should deliver my baby through caesarean section. I refused,” Hella said. 

“I was left unattended to and delivered the baby by myself because the medical response was not fast enough. My baby stopped breathing and died.” 

Her baby was placed in a cardboard box Hella was told to find a bed space. She was forced to share with five other mothers, each lying horizontally with their legs over the side.

When Usually, there is joy, excitement and anxiety when a mother sees her newborn.

But sometimes the doctor says the baby is dead.

ABUSED, DISMISSED

Nairobi’s slum mothers on Thursday described health injustices and spoke out about the physical and verbal abuse and neglect they were subjected to by nurses and doctors in city public hospitals. They complained of poor health services and even tribalism.

The forum was attended by community members from slums, survivors of disrespectful maternal health care, policymakers, health workers and maternal rights defenders.

Nurses kept dismissing my cries. My baby died shortly after I delivered her and it took me three days to locate her body. The hospital had tried to prevent my husband and me from taking her home for burial.
Celestine Atieno

Celestine Atieno, 35, from Kibera said nurses dismissed her though she cried out for help several times.

“I was pregnant with my third child. My pregnancies are normally complicated. I bleed a lot. After a difficult pregnancy, I went into labour at eight months. The doctor instructing the nurse to stay close to monitor the progress of my labour,” Atieno sod. 

“In the middle of the night, I felt extremely uncomfortable and called for help. The nurses kept dismissing my cries. My baby died shortly after I delivered her and it took me three days to locate her body. The hospital had tried to prevent my husband and me from taking her home for burial." 

"Sorry, you have lost your baby. But don’t worry, you will have another. You are still young,” Atieno quotes the doctor as saying.

Mercyline Ongachi, 20, from Mukuru slums, was carrying twins but wasn’t aware of it. She described her harrowing experience at the hands of professionals.

 “On August 25, I went into preterm labour. At the hospital, I cried for help for a long time. I delivered my baby by myself and placed him on the bed. When the doctor finally came to help, he proceeded to remove my placenta and I was surprised to find another baby on the way," she says. 

“He delivered my second baby. But he carried both my sons and told me that they would not make it. My babies were placed in an empty box. I could see them moving inside the box.” 

She said she heard doctors say, “You think this one can survive? This one cannot survive even if we place him in the incubator, he will not stay for long." 

ACTION DEMANDED

The justice we want is for all medical institutions to be held liable. The disadvantage of takingcases to court is that they take too long. Postpartum depression sometimes leads to suicidal thoughts.
Lawyer Tabitha Saoyo

Kenya Medical Association CEO Dr Elizabeth Gitau said doctors and nurses need to be trained on human rights. She said all doctors and nurses should have name tags so they can be held accountable if there are problems.

“There should be standard operating procedures in hospitals that must be followed and documented. There is also a need for informed consent between health workers and patients,” Gitau said.

Tabitha Saoyo, a lawyer from the Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network (Kelin) said medical issues should be held liable.

“The justice we want is for all these medical institutions to be held liable. The disadvantage of taking these cases to court is that they take too long. Postpartum depression sometimes leads to women to suicidal thoughts,” Saoyo said. 

During the forum, the women demanded that health desks be created in communities where they can report malpractices.

The women also demand that doctors involved in cases of neglect and harassment be interdicted and their licenses revoked until investigations are carried out independently by the DPP and DCI. 

Women said they want their rights to be respected. Cleanliness and sanitation in hospitals must be maintained. The government should financially compensate patients who have gone through abuse, they said. 

Edited by R.Wamochie