Reports showing that the Mulago hospital maternity ward is outstretched are disturbing and they demand urgent response. Early this week, the hospital expressed worry over the growing number of pregnant mothers that mob the hospital for childbirth. A hospital official in charge of the maternity ward, Ms Suphine Twinomuhangi, said the increasing number of women who register to give birth meant that currently, only three midwives attend to between 15 and 20 women at the same time.
Still, there is no commensurate reward that comes with the work pressure and exhaustion that the job brings. The hospital executive director, Dr Baterana Byarugaba, has said the hospital is finding challenges maintaining some midwives and nurses because of the little pay, which has subsequently seen most experienced midwives walk away. Last year, Uganda’s maternal mortality rate rose to 438 mothers per 100,000 live births at a time when it was expected to drop further, making the target of having 131 deaths per 100,000 by 2015 a difficult feat to attain.
It is clear that the country’s maternal mortality rate is often a result of risky situations that are similar to the one the Mulago hospital maternity ward finds itself in. But even as the line ministry (Ministry of Health) and other immediate stakeholders move to solve this problem, it is important to appreciate that a well-coordinated multi-pronged approach needs to be emphasised if we are going to significantly reduce the current maternal mortality rate.
Ugandan health experts, for instance, argue that effective family planning would reduce mothers’ deaths by about 30 per cent, in addition to reducing abortions, adolescent pregnancies and subsequently improving the general health of households. As the relevant authorities seek a stop-gap measure to Mulago hospital’s currently out-stretched maternity ward, there might be need to synchronise the various efforts that are geared towards improving the country’s maternal health situation.
Further, population growth control measures ought to be part of the strategy, given that the current spiraling population growth rate can be easily linked to poor maternal health and subsequently a high maternal mortality rate. A more cohesive and well-coordinated maternal mortality reduction strategy is required even as we seek immediate responses to crises in Mulago’s maternity ward and such other places.