Gomba mothers cry out over non-functional theatre

Gomba mothers cry out over non-functional theatre
Every day, 800 women die because they are pregnant. More than half of the deaths occur in rural Sub-Saharan Africa, where the chance of surviving childbirth is the lowest in the world. A lack of transport and poor access to adequate healthcare means many women bleed to death. In Uganda, official statistics claim 310 women per 100,000 live births die from complications at childbirth. At Ntwetwe Health Centre, three hours’ drive from Kampala, 36-year-old Annet Namata has come to deliver her sixth child. A year ago, she would have been just another statistic. Her baby is breached and the umbilical cord is been wrapped around its neck. Last year, the young doctor would not have had a choice but to send the heavily pregnant mother to Kiboga hospital, a two hour drive along a dirt track.“By that time she would have a ruptured uterus," says Dr Gordon Mayengo, the only doctor in Ntwetwe. But Annet is lucky. The small clinic has been equipped with an operating theatre and the medical team are able to perform a Caesarean to get the baby out. The theatre still lacks running water and electricity, but at least there is equipment to perform life-saving surgery. Photography by Johan Bävman

Expectant mothers in need of Caesarean section, also known as C-section in Gomba West Sub health district in Gomba district track long distances to get help. The theatre at Maddu Health Centre IV, the biggest health facility in Gomba district, hasn’t operated for more than seven year.

Florence Kizza, a resident of Maddu says the absence of a functional theatre at the facility puts expectant mothers at risk of death in case they fail to deliver normally.

Kizza notes that at times mothers lose their babies or life since the nearest health unit with a theatre is over 60km away at Gombe hospital.

Betty Namuleme, an expectant mother says in addition to the closure of the theatre, the facility lacks an ambulance, which forces the expectant mothers to resort to private means.

She stresses that a special hire to Gombe Hospital costs Shillings 150,000 during day and Shillings 180,000 at night.

Melanie Nakamoga, the in charge of the maternity ward, says on average ten mothers are referred to other hospitals after realizing that they may not deliver normally.

She says most of the mothers end up going to Gombe general hospital in Butambala District, Mityana Hospital, Mubende Regional Referral Hospital and sometimes Villa Maria Hospital in Kalungu District, which are far away.

She however, notes most of the referred mothers lose their babies due to the long distances they have to move before being admitted.

Nakamoga says some mothers have shunned going directly to the hospital, which has reduced the number of registered deliveries at lower units like Maddu Health Centre IV.

Regina Namyalo, the assistant in charge of Maddu Health Centre IV, says they suspended surgeries at the facility due to lack of safe water for use in the theatre and other required equipment.

Namyalo says they complained to the district authorities who have promised to address the problem, saying they could resume surgical operations next year.

Government constructed theatres at health center IVs between 1997-2003 with the aim of extending emergency obstetric care services especially to young mothers and handle other minor medical surgeries.

However, most of them remain unused because they don’t meet basic standards both in design and function, Maddu Health Unit being one of them.

Other than construction and equipment woes, the human resource in terms of doctors, nurses and midwives has also remained a challenge.

– URN