Pumwani closure forces expectant women to worry, rethink birth plan

Monday, July 27th, 2020 00:00 |
Pumwani Hospital in Nairobi. Photo/PD/JOHN OCHIENG

Christine Njeri’s pregnancy  is a mixed bag of emotions. Every time her foetus kicks her heart skips a beat. 

This would be a precious moment for any expectant woman, however, for Njeri, it stirs old memories and makes her anxious. 

Njeri lives in Majengo Slum, and is in her last trimester. The thought of birthing is scaring her. 

She may be forced to seek maternity services at a nondescript clinic in the informal settlement following the temporary suspension of services at Pumwani Maternity Hospital after 41 staff contracted Covid-19  about two weeks ago.  

Njeri has been seeking ante-natal services at Pumwani because she had hoped to deliver there.

But every time she gets to the facility, the security guard at the gate turns her away because the hospitaln is only handling emergency services.

This is her second pregnancy after losing her first child during labour.

“In my first pregnancy doctors observed that I took longer to seek medical attention.

I developed labour complications with the babystill in the womb. Doctors conducted an emergency operation to remove the dead foetus,” she says.

She is now worried she may also lose her second child, as she has no other place to go. 

“I prefer Pumwani Maternity Hospital because it is cheaper. I cannot afford the costs of a private facility.

I have been to Mbagathi and Mama Lucy and I was told that the maternity wing is full,” she added.  

When People Daily toured Pumwani, there was an eerily silence and no one was walking in out of the facility that on ordinary days experiences an influx of expectant women seeking maternal services.

The writing is on the wall: no visitors are allowed in except for those coming to visit their kin who are admitted.

Every detail

The security officers are keen to note every detail of those coming in; they check through the list to determine who will access the wards as they try to scale down operations. 

Only one person is granted permission into the facility

But Njeri is not the only one worried and concerned; Joan Atieno (not her real name) says she did not anticipate experiencing such tough times.

Atieno comes from Migori but lives in Kiambiu, Eastleigh South Ward with her relatives. She prefers Pumwani as well.

She visitis the doctor monthly for her antenatal care. However, she is also  worried  there is no doctor to attend to her now that the facility is shut.  

“My only fear is going to the hospital because of the risk of infection there. For a pregnant woman, my immunity is not at its best,” she said. 

Atieno adds life has completely changed, leaving her confused on what to do. 

“I was also talking to a friend who advised me that home delivery, which I was considering, is not the best option. A hospital delivery will be safer,” she said.

Zuhura Mohammed, a mother of one, is also nursing worries as she expects to deliver anytime now.

She is a Tana River resident who had opted to move to her mother’s place in Huruma Flats where she was to start her antenatal care.

This is because it would be easier to access health services  here than in Tana River.

“I was fortunate the cessation came when I had already travelled to Nairobi.

I could not start the clinics in Tana River due to a myriad of challenges, among them, accessibility to a good hospital,” she said.

Her  worries are as a result of the history of her previous pregnancies, which were delicate and complicated.

She lost her firstborn after the baby developed complications. She delivered at home.

On her second pregnancy, it was equally fragile, such that she had to frequently visit the hospital for check-ups and antenatal care.

Grace Nyambura from Murang’a on the other hand, is still contemplating whether to deliver in hospital or look for a midwife.

Nyambura said she had travelled to Nairobi, as she believes Pumwani provides safe and effective maternity care to women.

She is eight months pregnant with her first child.  Nyambura has not gone for her clinics for the past three months but hopes the baby is doing fine.

“I feel her kicks so I know she is fine. I am, however, skeptical of going to hospital, considering the risks I will undergo before I reach the hospital and at the hospital itself,” she said.

Her fear is that she might contract the virus in a public service vehicle or at the facility.  Nyambura, who still has a few weeks before her due date, is weighing her options on what to do if Covid-19 persists. 

Majority of women who People Daily talked to expressed fears of losing their children if the hospital is not opened.

Sophia Wangari, not her real name, a nurse who has worked at Pumwani for more than 23 years expressed fears that most women risk losing their children if the government is not keen to prioritise medical doctors who are now the frontline workers.   

Angara said most of the medics, especially midwives, work under harsh conditions where they are never given the prerequisite protective gear.

Harsh conditions

“ Our work is delicate as it helps to bring new lives but our government seems not to care. Most of us recycle masks as we are not provided enough,” she said.

According to State records, 41 medics at the facility have already contracted the virus.

The infected workers range from medical officers (2) to clinical officers (2), nurses (14) and a laboratory technology assistant.

Three nurses stationed at the newborn unit, three at theater and another at the labor ward are among those on home-based isolation.

Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) Health Director Josephine Kibaru advised pregnant women to seek help from facilities saying they are addressing the concerns soon.

“Due to shortage of staff because of the quarantine, we will have other nearest health facilities such as Ngara and Eastleigh assist in offering delivery services,” she said.

According to the Ministry of Health over 400 health staff nationwide have been infected with Covid-19, representing 4.2 per cent of the cases reported in the country since March.

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