Maternity Deaths and Medical Care

Greater Kashmir

During COVID-19 pandemic doctors were greatly admired. Right from the day one, they hit the headlines and were admirably called as COVID-19 warriors, frontline heroes, white-warriors, and the like. They were on the forefront to tackle the risky situation bravely. When all others preferred to stay home, they dared heroically to venture out, putting themselves at risk. Thousand of doctors have already died due to COVID-19, from dozens of countries and specialties. Here, we honor them, salute them.

Doctors are like angels for people in the hospitals. They are trusted wholeheartedly by them. But a little negligence on part of them may prove fatal. Although, they don’t deliberately show any unconcern while carrying out a patient’s treatment yet from past some years we have been observing increase in the number of maternity deaths in our government hospitals.

There are various examples of maternity deaths from Kashmir that ask for the attention of the authorities towards the healthcare of the pregnant women. From last few years the MMR (Maternity Mortality Rate) is mounting which is not a good sign for the health sector. What haven’t the pregnant women in Kashmir witnessed? Some pregnant women form the remote villages died on the stretchers on way to some hospital, some died at home, and some could not make to the hospital wards at all, thus, delivered their babies on the way amid excruciating circumstances. Some were caught up for hours in traffic jams and some were stalled by the security men on the roads for the checking purpose.

Some made it to the hospitals, yet died due to medical negligence on part of the staff. Facts speak for themselves. We can neither twist facts nor can we conceal them. Given the fact that we have top hospitals and medical colleges here and there, we have yet to do a lot to reform the gynecology sections in our hospitals. There are painful stories to be narrated. Some got surfaced up, and some remained untold. Certain incidents stand out in the memory though happened long ago. One such painful incident is from District Hospital Anantnag which remained in news for quite a long time wherein a pregnant lady was ferried on a trolley by her relatives through streets of Anantnag obviously for not having been provided an ambulance by the hospital authorities.

What made me write this article is of course the recent maternity death which took place in Govt. District Hospital cum Medical College, Kant Bagh, Baramulla on a gloomy day of Sept. 4, when a 20 year old pregnant woman of Janbazpora, Baramulla flatlined due to lack of medical-care. People, and the family of the deceased alleged that the woman died due to the medical carelessness shown by the doctors in the hospital. The family members of the deceased damaged the hospital property and were not happy with the health service at the hospital. There is no smoke with out fire, as they say!

There used to be very least number of hospitals in our valley. Those days, amid least health care facilities, hardly would any pregnant lady die due to medical negligence at any health centre. All we had then were the midwives (Daaiye or Warein) in the vicinities. They were the best gynecologists with no access to any equipment, etc. But alas, today, we have not only hospitals here but medical colleges too are in place! And as for the treatment, that is like ‘the more the facilities the more the deaths’.

The point is, that during COVID-19 lockdown, the pregnant women in our Kashmir valley had to bear the brunt. They were carried in hospital vans for COVID-19 tests like the most wanted criminals.

All women need access to high quality care in pregnancy and during and after childbirth. Maternal health and newborn health are closely linked. It is particularly important that all births are attended by skilled professionals, as timely management and treatment can make the difference between life and death for the mother as well as for the baby.

Most maternal deaths are preventable as the health-care solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known. India, like other countries figures in the top list in terms of healthcare graphs thereby spending a huge amount of money annually to enhance the sector. The main motive behind boosting the health care sector is the well-being of a poor man who has no access to the costly treatment in the private hospitals. His prime and the only preference remains government hospitals where the treatment expenses seem to be affordable for him. But now people seem to have lost faith in government hospitals. That’s why we observe people approaching private clinics or hospitals. Some believe that our doctors do not treat patients carefully while performing their duties in Govt. hospitals but in their private clinics they seem to show every possible concern to make a patient feel better.

Every state government is fervently saying that it is providing the best care to the pregnant women having availed all the facilities at MCCHs (Maternity Care and Childbirth Hospitals). But the truth is bitter and that is the Maternity Mortality Rate is rising every month.

A step taken is better than step not taken. Every state government must keep a separate building with sufficient accommodation for the pregnant women at district and tehsil level with all necessary facilities of healthcare like Gynecologists, Obstetrician, Physician, Anesthetists, and Neonatologists and the like. To improve maternal health, barriers that limit access to quality maternal health service must be identified and addressed at both health system and societal levels. Improving maternal health is one of the WHO’s (World Health Organization’s) key priorities. WHO works to contribute to the reduction of maternal mortality by increasing research evidence, providing evidence-based clinical and programmatic guidance, setting global standards, and providing technical support to member states on developing and implementing effective policy and programmes.

(Author Teaches at Govt. Middle School, Shangergund, Dangiwacha)