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Kabale considers law to force pregnant women into hospitals

A nurse attends to a mother and her baby at Kabale Hospital yesterday. Some women shun health centres in favour of TBAs. Photo by Robert Muhereza

Kabale District is working on a by-law to compel pregnant women to give birth at health facilities and penalise those who deliver aided by traditional birth attendants (TBAs).

District speaker Pastoli Twinomuhangi said on Wednesday that he is ready to present the draft by-law for the council’s consideration.
This follows a recent survey in Rukiga, one of the four counties in Kabale District, where it was found that nearly one in every two expectant women that TBAs help to give birth, die.

“An ordinance is already being drafted to compel mothers in labour to deliver at the established government health centers in order to save their lives and that of the babies,” Mr Twinomuhangi said.

However, according to District Health Officer Patrick Tusiime, the number of women delivered by TBAs has reduced due to intensified mobilisation through media and community meetings.

Half of pregnant women in the district now deliver at health facilities, up from 12 per cent five years ago, the doctor said.

However, Ms Allen Busingye, a businesswoman in Kabale town, said some of them prefer the services of TBAs because they offer “motherly care unlike in the health centres where we are attended to by young and abusive nurses.

“The young nurses are rude to the mothers in labour pains,” she said.

The government outlawed the traditional birth attendants, but they continue to thrive especially in rural areas where public health services are either lacking or unaffordable.

The District Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr Nickson Kabuye, said his office is investigating reports that some health workers in the district on government payroll extort money from women seeking antenatal care, forcing them to turn to TBAs. The culprits, he said, will soon be exposed.

TBA head responds
The head of TBAs in the district, Mr Charity Mugisha, said an accusation pinning them on causing maternal deaths is baseless because reports of women dying in labour at hospitals are a common place hence not of their (TBAs) own making.

“Traditional Birth Attendants are complementing the government efforts in assisting pregnant mothers to have safe deliveries,” he said.

District vice chairperson Mary Bebwajuba noted that a shortage of qualified staff coupled with lack of ambulances are the reasons behind the delay of referrals, leading to many deaths of expectant women in the area due to delayed birth.