A 35-year-old expectant mother and her unborn baby have died in Pallisa District after failing to secure an ambulance to transport her to Pallisa Main hospital where she had been referred for further medical management.
Perepata Atim is said to have endured pain for about seven hours until she died of complications after her husband reportedly failed to secure an ambulance to transport her from Kameke health centre III where she had been admitted to Pallisa Main hospital.
It’s alleged that Atim, president of Akisim village, Akisim Sub County developed birth complications and walked to Kameke health centre III, about 15kms from her home, for medical attention but was referred to the main hospital after the medics learnt that her baby had died.
Ms Sandrina Anek, a nurse at Kameke health centre III, who reportedly attended to Ms Atim said that she (Atim) arrived at the facility at around 9am on Tuesday when the baby was already dead but her attendants were advised to inform the district task force to send an ambulance.
“The district task force kept on promising to respond to the emergency and yet the woman’s condition was worsening,” said Mr Bosco Lokaki, the area LC1 chairman.
Atim’s husband, Mr John Olinga faulted the district task force headed by the Resident District Commissioner [RDC], Mr Kyeyune Ssenyonjo, for delaying to respond.
The 42-year-old peasant and father of seven other children said: “I heard all district vehicles were directed to park at the district headquarters purposely to respond to such cases but it is very unfortunate and unfair that they failed to respond to my case.”
Mr Olinga said his family is already struggling with feeding themselves and is not sure how he will raise his children as a single parent.
“I even don’t know how I will raise fees for their education because my wife has been supporting me. My family situation is so bad that we cannot even afford what to eat following the lockdown,” he said wiping away tears.
However, Mr Ssenyonjo denied the allegations, saying many residents do not know who to call, claiming that he didn’t receive any phone call from Kameke health centre III regarding Atim’s case.
“The district task force shouldn’t be faulted for this woman’s death because all vehicles, as required, are at people’s disposal in case of emergencies but for this case, the relatives didn’t inform the task force. Why would we not respond to such a case if we had been reached!” he wondered.
The Pallisa LC5 chairman, Mr John Michael Okurut, also insisted that Pallisa main hospital has only one ambulance.
The entire district reportedly has only two ambulances, one of which belongs to former Agule County MP, Mr David Ochwa.
“However, as a district, we’re doing all it takes to make sure that such emergency cases are evacuated and rushed to hospital. In this case, the nurses and patients should take the blame for delaying to inform the concerned authorities in time,” Mr Okurut said.
The District Health officer [DHO], Dr Godfrey Mulekwa, also refuted claims that Atim’s case was brought to the attention of the district task force.
“Vehicles have been on standby for such emergencies. We are yet to establish what happened and as well institute investigations into this matter,” he said.
However, Ms Shibah Namulindwa, a programme officer at Action Aid-Pallisa branch said there are many unreported cases of expectant mothers dying under such circumstances, notwithstanding the sorry state of the health sector.
”The Covid-19 lock down created its own negative effects in terms of maternal death. There are some women who are delivering in villages with the support of the Traditional Birth Attendants [TBAs] thus shunning the government health facilities because of the bureaucracy of getting permission as well lack of transport,” she said.
Ever since President Museveni declared the virus induced lockdown, some daring women in Pallisa District have been seen walking to health facilities for antenatal care which health experts say, it only increases their health risks.