Amnesty International launches campaign over Mpumalanga maternal deaths

Amnesty International launches campaign over Mpumalanga maternal deathsBoth Mpumalanga and Gauteng have admitted to ambulance shortages in the past year. In rural provinces like Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and Limpopo, vast distances between communities and rough, rural roads can increase the rate at which ambulances need to be replaced.

Amnesty International has launched an online, write-in campaign targeting Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Pravin Gordhan. The campaign is aimed at improving allegedly deadly service delivery problems Amnesty International says are contributing to maternal deaths in Mpumalanga.

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When Nurse Hlope’s water broke two months ago, her mother an ambulance to take her to Piet Retief Hospital 20 km from her rural village of Wolvenkop. The ambulance arrived six hours later, by which time Hlope's mother had delivered the baby unassisted.
When Nurse Hlope’s water broke two months ago, her mother an ambulance to take her to Piet Retief Hospital 20 km from her rural village of Wolvenkop. The ambulance arrived six hours later, by which time Hlope’s mother had delivered the baby unassisted.

Amnesty International is urging people to write to Gordhan and demand better health for women and girls in Mpumalanga’s Mkhondo Municipality.

This is after recent research by the organisation in the area revealed multiple barriers to health services for pregnant women including a lack of confidence in health workers to respect patient confidentiality, poor knowledge about reproductive health and the high cost of transport needed to reach clinics.

In July, President Jacob Zuma appointed Gordhan the chair of an inter-ministerial service delivery task team to improve service delivery and quickly respond to problems.

Amnesty International General Secretary Salil Shetty said research findings also questioned whether women always gave informed consent to HIV counselling and testing.

“Health care workers often talk about testing for HIV in pregnancy in a way that fosters this perception of compulsion,” he told OurHealth. “South African and international guidelines makes clear that health care workers must ensure that women and girls must give informed consent before they are tested for HIV.”

“Health care workers must also provide counselling before and after the test that enables women and girls to make informed decisions,” said Shetty speaking at the Mpumalanga release of the research findings earlier this week.

Amnesty International is also expected to launch the research results in Johannesburg soon.

Obstetric ambulances to be rolled out[quote float=”right”]”Women and girls will continue having to pay R250 to R900 for emergency transport or give birth at home…”

In August, Health-e News first reported on a dire shortage of ambulances with the municipality’s Gert Sibande District, which is currently piloting the National Health Insurance.

Phindile Dlamini is in charge of municipal maternal and child health programmes. She said that the provincial department is in the process of procuring designated ambulances to transport women in labour to local clinics. These obstetric ambulances will be based in Volksrust, according to Dlamini.

“Yes, Gert Sibande District has a problem of not having enough ambulances to serve the whole district,” said Dlamini, speaking at the launch. “That’s why we always encourage the pregnant women and girls that they should arrange transport early in their pregnancy.”

Community member Zodwa Nkosi said Volksrust is still about 100 kms away from women who need them in rural communities like Amsterdam.

“Women and girls will continue having to pay R250 to R900 for emergency transport, or give birth at home or on the roadside while waiting for an ambulance to transport them the hospital,” she told OurHealth.

An edited version of this story first appeared in the 9 October edition of The Star newspaper.