The country’s major hospitals are struggling to take care of mothers nursing children admitted to the institutions, with some being forced to sleep on benches and chairs.
By Phyllis Mbanje
Mothers who spoke to The Standard said the hospitals did not have facilities to cater for those accompanying children.
“It is very uncomfortable to spend the night seated or lying on the cold benches with no blankets,” said a mother whose child was recently admitted to hospital.
The hospitals, due to limited funding, have not been able to construct decent quarters for the mothers who have had to endure uncomfortable nights sitting by the bed side of their ailing babies.
The facilities are also struggling to feed the mothers on their limited budgets.
When *Fadzai’s baby was hospitalised after experiencing numerous febrile convulsions (seizures occurring in children aged six months to five years), she spent over a week sleeping on a chair and by the time the baby was discharged, she was exhausted and feeling sick herself.
“I was glad when my baby was being given attention, but I was shocked come bedtime when I asked where I would sleep. I wanted to know if it would be close enough to my baby,” she said.
A nurse calmly told her that there were no such facilities and she would have to make do with the rickety chair by the bed side.
“The first night I did not feel the pain because I was too worried to even fall asleep anyway, but by the second night I was tired,” she recalls.
For the next four days she slept in an upright position and by the time the baby was discharged, she was suffering from severe neck cramps and was cranky from the restless nights.
“I snapped at every one and anything because I was feeling so sorry for myself,” she said.
When night time comes, the mothers either sleep in the chairs, or they find benches which they use as temporary beds.
Harare Hospital clinical director George Vera said they had no adequate facilities for the mothers and carers but could only provide chairs which double up as beds.
“We give them chairs only because currently there is no accommodation for the mothers,” he said.
The hospital received a donation of 100 chairs that double up as makeshift beds, but these are not enough and there is still need for accommodation for the breast-feeding mothers.
“Ideally, a mother’s hostel would be appropriate and after feeding their babies, the mothers can go and relax on proper beds,” he said. Only those who are exclusively breastfeeding or those with babies under six months are required to stay by the bed side all the time, but the other nursing mothers of older babies can take time out at a hostel and come for feeding hours only.
“After the experience, I could not sleep very well, even though I was now back home. It has affected me so much and I dread a repeat experience,” said Coleen from Mabvuku.
Funding for the health sector has remained a critical issue and many public health institutions are struggling to stay afloat.
Health minister David Parirenyatwa has previously called for increased budget allocation for the sector and revamping of health facilities.