MAFETENG – Curled into a ball in an effort to ease the excruciating pain, ‘Malitloung Chakanyane lies at the Mafeteng Hospital bed hours after losing what would have been her first child.
The 25-year-old Malealea woman was six-months pregnant when she was admitted at the Mafeteng District Hospital last Wednesday, two days after her unborn baby died in her womb.
Hers is a heart-wrenching tale of neglect by hospital staff who simply gave a pill to drink upon admitting her and never bothered to explain what was happening to her before leaving her to her own devices.
Hours later, she was given a second pill identical to the first one and upon inquiring from the clinician, she was told that the pill was meant to induce labour.
“After taking the pill, I started experiencing labour pains and I didn’t know what was going to happen,” the visibly distressed Ms Chakanyane told the Lesotho Times from her hospital bed on Saturday morning.
The interview took place just a few hours after she delivered a still-born child. Without any of the hospital staff in sight, she had to be assisted by fellow patients through the painful process.
“When the labour pains intensified, there was no nurse in our ward and I went to the maternity ward where there were nurses and I asked them to help me. They told me a nurse stationed at my ward (Female’s Ward) was busy somewhere else and she would come when she had finished what she was doing.
“I went back to my ward and I eventually gave birth with the assistance of fellow patients but my baby did not survive.
“The nurses only came after 10 minutes to cut the umbilical cord and take away the corpse,” Ms Chakanyane said. (She was not aware that the baby was already dead by the time she came to the hospital).
As if losing her baby and being neglected by hospital staff was not enough, the grieving mother was not given any medication to ease the excruciating pain.
By the time this reporter arrived at midday at the hospital in the company of senior Ministry of Health officials and hospital management, Ms Chakanyane was curled into a ball in a vain attempt to ease the pain.
“I haven’t been given any medication as we speak,” she said, adding that the nurse only came hours later to run vital tests on her.
“I am not happy and I just wanted to go home.
“I wasn’t treated like a human being and maybe they will change their attitudes now that they have been disciplined.”
The hospital were subsequently summoned and given a tongue lashing by Ministry of Health officials who descended on the hospital immediately after Ms Chakanyane’s ordeal was broadcast on one of the local radio stations on Saturday morning.
The hospital’s Medical Officer, Sechaba Makiti, however refuted Ms Chakanyane’s assertion that she was never informed about her unborn baby’s status when she was admitted at the hospital.
Dr Makiti said thorough medical investigations were carried out on Ms Chakanyane before she was admitted, adding that the doctor’s report clearly indicated a “no foetus heart at 7:42 pm when she was admitted”.
She said the medical investigations included an ultrasound scan and the collection of blood specimens to ensure that doctors knew of her medical status as a preeclampsia patient.
Pre-eclampsia is pregnancy-induced hypertension in expectant women and five to 10 percent of all pregnant women get preeclampsia. It can occur at any point after the 20th week of pregnancy, although in some cases it occurs earlier.
Severe pre-eclampsia can result in serious complications during pregnancy and the condition is said to be the second leading cause of maternal deaths in the United Kingdom.
The fatalities could be higher in less developed countries.
Speaking on Ms Chakanyane’s case, Dr Makiti said her foetus was already dead inside her by the time she was admitted to the hospital.
“By the time the patient arrived here, the unborn child was already dead and she signed a consent form allowing us to perform any procedure on her to save her own life. It is not true that she was never told of her unborn baby’s condition,” Dr Makiti said, adding Ms Chakanyane signed a consent form allowing the hospital to perform any clinical procedures necessary to save her life.
Dr Makiti said the consent form was signed by every patient who got admitted to the facility.
However, the Deputy Minister of Health, ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli, acknowledged there was negligence on the part of the hospital staff who failed to assist Ms Chakanyane when she asked for help.
“There was also negligence when pills to induce her labour pains were administered to her.
“But we needed to induce her labour because her foetus was already dead and we couldn’t lose her too. She was referred to this hospital when her foetus was already dead.
“We did an injustice to this patient by leaving her unattended at a time when she was in labour and she will not be victimised for voicing her opinion on the matter. In fact, she hasn’t only fought for her rights but for many other women and we encourage people to use any medium to report their experiences at our health facilities,” Ms Phohleli said.
The Ministry of Health Director General, Nyane Letsie, said they working to ensure there were different forms because the hospitals were currently using a blanket medical consent form for all patients which were not even understood by some of the patients.
“We are consulting with our legal department to see how best this form can be changed because as things stand, we don’t even give a patient a copy of their signed consent form. The language barrier is another issue that needs to be looked into,” Dr Letsie said.
Dr Letsie also concurred with Dr Makiti, saying that Ms Chakanyane’s baby was already dead when she came to the hospital which is why she was admitted to the female instead of the maternity ward.
She said the District Medical Officer had reported to her and other ministry’s officials that Ms Chakanyane was an eclampsia patient and hers was an emergency situation which called for the hospital staff to act fast to save her life.
“The clinicians’ first priority was to save the mother’s life because the foetus was already dead when the mother was admitted to the hospital. The failure to remove the foetus would have endangered the mother’s life which was already fragile,” Dr Letsie said.
She however, said Ms Chakanyane would “not be victimised for sharing her ordeal on radio”.
“In fact, no one will be victimised by our medical staff for exercising their right to expose bad services in our health centres.
“There is an issue here and nurses in question will be dealt with accordingly. We shouldn’t blame the patient for exposing the poor conduct but we must deal with the professionals in question,” Dr Letsie said.
She said investigations were underway into the negligence and the ministry would as going to report the matter to the Lesotho Nursing Council and Lesotho Nursing Association to take disciplinary measures against the culprits.
She added that the hospital would offer Ms Chakanyane counselling and psychosocial support as part of a long healing process.
Dr Letsie said it was also important for Ms Chakanyane to delay trying for another baby by at least two years to enable her to fully recover.