Functional health delivery system is the right answer, not legislation
I would like to respond to the story titled, ‘Kabale considers a by-law to force pregnant women into hospital’ in the Daily Monitor of July 27. The story said the by-law will compel pregnant mothers to deliver in a health facility and penalise those who deliver under the care of a traditional birth attendants.
Experience from around the world suggests that about 15 per cent of all pregnant women will develop obstetric complications and that not all these complications can be predicted. Delivery under the care of a skilled health care provider – midwife, doctor, or nurse with midwifery skills – is the safest method for saving the lives of mothers and their newborn.
Countries with the highest skilled attended deliveries such as Sweden and Malaysia are also the nations with the lowest maternal and newborn deaths. Every year, 350,000 women worldwide die during pregnancy, or during labour, almost 1,000 a day. Of these deaths, 99 per cent occur in developing countries such as Uganda.
Every year, up to 2 million newborns die within the first 24 hours of life. Uganda looses 45,000 newborns annually; many more suffer birth trauma that impairs their development and future productivity.
In recognition of the critical role of skilled care in reducing maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity; Uganda has committed itself to increasing skilled attended deliveries from 53 per cent to 90 per cent by 2015.
I would like to commend the local leadership in Kabale District for recognising the importance of skilled healthcare and their intentions to encourage mothers to deliver in a health facility instead of under a traditional birth attendant. However, enforcing skilled attended delivery through a by-law is not the answer.
A survey conducted by White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood in six districts in Uganda (Assessment of Maternal Health Services in Six Districts in Uganda, 2010) showed that health facilities in Kabale had only 2 per cent of the required midwives and only one doctor. None of the health centre IVs could provide blood transfusion services or caesarian sections. Many facilities lacked essential supplies, transport for referral of obstetric emergencies at HC4 and 3.
I would like to request the decision makers in Kabale District to examine the current healthcare delivery system and make it attractive to the clients by providing an attractive healthcare delivery package to women. That means adequate supplies, equipment, provision of emergency obstetric at HC 3 and 4, adequate midwives. Conduct community awareness raising about the benefits of skilled attended births in addition to addressing social-cultural factors that limit a woman’s ability to access her maternity care services.
The government should play its role of ensuring adequate financial and human resources towards meeting its national and international commitments on Millennium Development Goal 5 and support local governments to deliver quality services to its citizens. Uganda committed itself to giving the health sector 15 per cent of its annual budget.