ON Monday March 31, I accompanied an expecting female relative to Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Home at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, one of the country’s largest referral health centres.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
She was nervous, and it was understandable as she was expecting her first baby.
I assured her that there was no need to be afraid but a couple of hours later, I was taking back those assurances.
The reception was being manned by two women. With a bored expression, one of them just gestured with her hand that we were supposed to go upstairs. With spirits dampened, we mounted the long winding stairs.
On the way, we met several other pregnant women — some of them heavily pregnant — negotiating their way laden with their luggage.
We finally made it to the labour ward, out of breath. We walked down the corridor trying to figure out where the reception was. We trudged on and finally came to an open space where there were benches meant for prospective patients and visitors.
Two heavily pregnant women were already sitting there and judging by their luggage, we assumed that like us, they wanted to check in.
Dumping our bags on the floor, we made a beeline for the benches to take a rest. But a nurse who was passing by casually warned us against sitting on the benches without looking at them first.
We checked the benches and what a spectacle we beheld! All the four benches had blood stains! Some of it had dried up but most was still fresh. I felt bile rising up my throat.
We scanned the floor and there were puddles of water. At first, I was not sure what it was, but I got my answer moments later.
A tall thin woman, who was obviously in advanced stages of labour, bolted from one of the waiting rooms screaming at the top of her voice. She appeared to be in deep pain. The staff however went about their business as if nothing was amiss and I started to wonder if the woman was mentally challenged.
The woman came and knelt by the benches and as another wave of a painful contraction washed over her thin frame, she wildly grabbed the dirty benches and oblivious of the blood stains, laid her head right into the mess.
I gasped in horror and tried to warn her of the blood but she could not hear me. She was in pain.
I frantically looked around hoping to catch the attention of the staff but they looked at me as if I was crazy.
Some of the nurses had converged in a small room and were busy telling each other stories, ignoring this little scene.
Suddenly the woman broke her womb waters as she knelt there. Realisation hit me! The liquid we had seen earlier must be some other women’s womb waters!
This poor woman was being exposed to all sorts of infection and I thought, what if she gave birth right there on the dirty floor! What was shocking was that the staff pretended as if it was normal. The cleaners moved away with their brooms as I tried to signal them.
The two women we had earlier on found sitting on the bench decided then to educate me on a few things.
“No one really cares here and crying makes it worse,” said one of them, matter of factly.
After a while a nurse strolled past with both hands in the pockets of her uniform and in a shrill voice ordered the poor woman to stop being “dramatic”.
“You know the rules here. If you carry on like this the doctor will not see you,” she said cheekily before turning on her heels and flounced off. For almost an hour, no one attended to us until another nurse came and asked for my cousin’s medical records.
One glance and she told us we were in the wrong section. I gapped at her before picking up our luggage once again and went up another flight of stairs. Once there, I was told to go back to the ground floor and get a booking form.
I scouted downstairs and marched up to the reception. As I approached, one of the women at the reception indicated with her head that I should go and be served by her colleague, who was on the phone.
I went up to her but she kept chatting away.
This went on for several minutes and I was relieved when she finally got off the phone. She sarcastically told me to go back to the lady that I had approached first. She was clearly not interested.
“Aiwa shamwari, deal with her iwewe [No my friend, you deal with her],” she told her colleague and for the next few minutes, they carried on like that while I stood in the middle unsure of where to go.
Finally, one of them held out her hand and asked for my cousin’s records. As she printed out the booking form, I could not help wondering if these people truly understood their roles and how to handle patients, especially pregnant women.
I took the form back upstairs and finally she was booked in. It was almost one o’clock and the process had taken four hours!
Efforts to get an explanation on the conduct of the staff at this hospital from the Principal Nursing Officer, Helena Mavhaire were fruitless as she was said to be attending a workshop.