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Making childbirth safe and affordable

By Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor
Madam, sorry I no come finish work on your car yesterday as I promise,” apologized this motor mechanic.  “My wife born, and I dey run around plenty plenty.”

“Ah, that’s good news, so, you’re forgiven, even though your absence caused us some hardship in moving around.  Congratulations!  How are madam and the baby?”

“Dem fine o, madam.  Thank you.  Na baby boy we get dis time.  You know we get two girls before, but one of dem die.”
“That’s true.  Sorry about the one who passed on, but we thank God for the new baby.

Er, since your daughter is only two years old,  I think you should allow madam to rest a bit, say like three years, before you start making another baby.”

“Madam!  Anoda baby!  Nobi me o!   If you see the suffer wey we suffer for dis one, you go cry for us.  Two children don do me.  Even now, we go work hard to get money to look after dem  well.  Everything cost.”

“How did you suffer?  Wasn’t it madam who had to give birth to the baby?”
“Yes, ma.  Dat na true.  But de fear and the stress for my heart wen we reach the hospital and the nurse tell us say na operation my wife go have, make my blood pressure to go up.   I tell her say my wife don born two children before and everything dey normal.  But she no wan to listen.  She say make I quick make the decision so dat she go ring doctor make he come do the operation.   Wen she tell me how much money I go put down, I nearly faint.”

“How much did she say the operation will cost?”

“Er, she say normal delivery na fifty thousand naira, but operation na from 120,000.00 naira.  She say e depend on how serious the case be, and e fit reach two hundred thousand naira sef..”

“That’s a lot of money.  Why didn’t you take your wife to a general or teaching hospital? I’m sure the services there are much cheaper.    In Lagos State, apart from the Teaching hospital, there’s a general hospital in every local government area, isn’t it?”

“Madam, I don’t know o.  I live for Ajangbadi.  The general hospital for that area na de one wey dey Badagry town, and e far from my house, so, na private hospitals we all dey use.”

“So, were you able to go raise the money for your wife to have caesarian operation at this private hospital?”

Where me I go get such money?   I look up, look down, then I tell the nurse that I and my wife go go look for the money.   So, I come carry my wife go one maternity home wey I no for Ijanikin side.  Wen we get there I explain everything to the midwife wey get de place.  She say make I no worry.  She give my wife injection and she say make I go home since na night.

I dey for bus stop wen she phone say my wife don born.  Madam, help me thank God o.”
“So, there was no operation to bring out the baby after all?”

“No, madam.  De baby just come natural and d money de midwife dey charge no too much.  My wife go dey go take injection every day for three days.  So, we carry de baby and return home dat same night.”

“We thank God for everything o,” I told the man.  “Not all operations for delivery are safe for both mother and child.  It’s best to deliver naturally, but if on proper examination the doctor says it should be caesarian operation, it’s best to allow it to be done.  The doctor knows best.”

“But madam, no be so for dis case.  Nobi doctor recommend operation, na de nurse.”
“Why would she decide the mode of delivery on her own? Maybe the doctor wrote that down.”

“Ma, na because of money.  Operation cost more than normal delivery, so, dem go say na dat one dem go do.” said a driver who had been listening to our conversation. “E happen to my wife too. I no fit pay so, my sister later take us to maternity home wey one midwife dey run.  E no reach one hour my wife don deliver, and she and the baby well.  No problem at all.  Nobi all dese hospital fit do operation well, sef.   Some women dey die from am.”

Healthcare delivery in Nigeria since independence has always been poor, and it gets poorer every day with lack of adequate equipment and  infrastructure, lack of power supply, poor ward services and incessant strikes or work-to-rule of medical personnel.  Add to this, the exorbitant fees charged both in government and private hospitals, and healthcare becomes a nightmare for the poor.  Many citizens have resorted to seeking treatment from herbal experts and traditional birth attendants.  These services don’t come cheap, either.

I think it’s because our rulers are mostly men that they don’t take healthcare issues seriously.    If men were the ones giving birth to babies, and looking after the kids, they would  ensure that our medical system is the best so that they can have adequate comfort and very little hassle. A pregnant woman is between life and death right from the moment she takes in until delivery.

Anything can go wrong at any time.  It is important that there are good ante-natal, delivery and post natal services.  It is baffling that where a hospital recommended CS, maternity homes were able to effect natural delivery.

Whichever way you look at it, if an individual or a group of people establish a health institution, it is mostly with a view to making profit.  It is a business, and they have a lot of overhead expenses  to meet.  They want to break even, but at whose expense?

The issue of caesarian operation for child delivery is becoming rampant.  I don’t know if this is by choice of  some pregnant women who are afraid of the usual pains associated with child birth, or, if some hospitals offer it as a quicker and more financially profitable way of dealing with the issue.

Now, one is not a medical expert and one cannot say if these operations were needed or not, but it is of utmost importance that our government should get serious about healthcare delivery, and ensure that healthcare providers, both government and private, are playing by the rules and putting the safety and interests of the patient first before personal gains or convenience.

How adequately are these healthcare providers monitored and supervised?

It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that we all have adequate access to good  healthcare; particularly maternal and child care.  It is no secret that the maternal mortality and child morbidity situation in our country continue to deteriorate, and is one of the worst in the world.

The ministries in charge of women, children and health should wake up and ensure improved healthcare for all.


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