At the age of 58, Mary Gorette Musoke, prides in the fact that she has attended several graduation and wedding ceremonies for the babies she has delivered in the past 20 years.
Having resigned from her post at Mulago National Referral Hospital as a registered nurse with a diploma in midwifery, Musoke opened up Maama Maria Maternity Centre in 1993.
She says her aim was to start helping mothers in slum communities. “Because we used to receive a high number of mothers, I felt I was not fulfilling what I was taught to do and decided to open up a quality maternity centre,” recollects Musoke.
With only a diploma in midwifery, the mother of four found it a tag of war to win the trust of the people of Kagoma community in Wakiso District, a place highly dominated by slum dwellers.
Since most of them thought she was a traditional birth attendant, she says she lacked the skills to come up with a unique strategy to convince mothers to come to the maternal facility until she had to think outside the box.
“I could only deliver six mothers in a month,” Musoke recollects, that is the moment I was inspired to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing at the Aga Khan University’s (AKHU) School of Nursing and Midwifery (SONAM).”
The friendly time table at AKU which allowed her to study twice in a week and spend the rest of the time concentrating on her patients alongside the school course works, Musoke recollects that it provided her an opportunity to practice hands on training.
“The university alumni had told me about the quality of the university and because I had left Mulago to come and extend quality health services to the people in a community where my husband was born, I chose to join AKU,” she adds.
Other than learning to put much emphasis on health education, “I learnt so many techniques I use to provide a favourable environment for mothers to deliver such as using a bouncing ball to quicken labour, and providing special postnatal care for mothers six weeks and months after delivery.”
With the skills at hand, Musoke decided to have at least four other midwives to ensure that every mother got adequate time to examine and detect any likely dangers which is not so common in other facilities.
“Midwives usually become so rude because of the heavy work load and do not get time to teach mothers how to breastfeed and detect dangers,” Musoke states.
She explains that she learnt to give a choice to mothers to enable them to identify those positions where they will feel more comfortable to have the bed placed during delivery.
The leadership skills, she says, that they teach at the bachelors level in nursing with a component of midwifery, in addition to thorough examination of mothers from the head to the toe, have earned her the opportunity to head the Private Midwives Association (PMA).
The community, she adds, has since gained more confidence in her that the numbers of mothers flocking her facility for delivery have shot on average between 30-35 on a monthly basis.
With a minimum Shs100, 000 charged for a normal delivery, the facility attends to more than 100 mothers who come to immunise their babies free of charge while hundreds of other expectant mothers pay Shs5,000 on a monthly basis to attend antenatal care.
The other services provided at the clinic, she said, include scanning, blood testing and immunisation.
Unique to her facility, the former civil servant, says she has a stand by special hire car to transport women with referral cases, put much emphasis on health education for the patients, opened a postnatal centre which offers care to mothers six days and six months after their delivery.
The joy of job satisfaction through serving the community to reduce maternal mortality is the best experience Musoke points out in her career despite the financial challenges that have limited her service expansion.
“I have inspired other midwives out there as well to return to their communities and serve mothers who cannot afford to access government hospitals and clinics where they work,” she says.