ZIMBABWE: When 23 year Patricia Chitsinde visited a local polyclinic in Highfields for maternity registration last week, she was asked to return home due to the understaffing of health care providers at the clinic.
She was told to come on the day of delivery or check some other day but no guarantee that she will register.
An 8-month pregnant mother left with no option than to wait for the day of labour despite the possible complications that she might face since she has not been examined.
“I have no other option because even if l go to another public health facility it will be the same story,” Chitsinde told Transcontinental Times.
No access to antenatal care
Usually, pregnant women are recommended to have four and above antenatal visits where they should access micronutrient supplementation, and tests conducted during pregnancy.
However, Chitsinde was asked to bring the registration fee and register on the day of delivery.
Approximately, 300 000 women die annually from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications around the world and almost all these deaths are preventable, according to the World Health Organisation.
Remuneration and shortage of PPEs
Critical factors affecting the registration and monitoring of pregnant mothers include remuneration, risk allowances and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
In an interview with Zimbabwe Urban and Rural Council Nurses Union President Simbarashe Tafirenyika cited salary and PPE issues to be the major factors that lead to the absenteeism of health care providers.
“For the continuity of community service to be rendered properly in the City of Harare, remuneration has to be considered.
“The City Health Department Director is giving much prominence to the welfare of doctors, forgetting that nurses are the vanguard of clinics”, he said.
He also said that a short supply of PPE keep away health care workers from work as they fear contracting COVID-19.
” A health worker is given one mask for more than 7 to 8 hours or 2 masks for 24 hours”, said Tafirenyika.
UNICEF call to protect pregnant women
The situation is against last year’s UNICEF appeal to governments and health care providers amidst COVID-19 last year.
UNICEF noted, “Ensuring health workers are provided with the necessary personal protective equipment and get priority testing and vaccination once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available so that they can deliver high-quality care to all pregnant women and newborn babies during the pandemic”.
Zimbabwe Confederation of Midwives President Emmanuel Mahlangu insisted that financial constraints are part of the concerns health care providers but antenatal care is crucial.
“There is no substitute for good antenatal care, booking should be done as early as by 12 weeks of pregnancy for effective care.”
“At best we need to align services to enable such antenatal care to be rendered. This involves an increasing number of midwives, clinic access and education to young women”, he said.
Just like other civil servants, public health facilities members have not been spared from low salaries.
Alternatives for professional antenatal care
In an effort to alternate antenatal care, some pregnant women are resorting to traditional ways of monitoring the unborn by inserting fingers to check if the way is wide open to deliver the baby.
Also, some are taking traditional medicines and religious anointed waters.