THE maternity wing at Harare Central Hospital has been hit by a shortage of midwives amid revelations that student and general nurses are now overseeing the delivery of babies at the institution.
Harare Hospital, the country’s second largest referral medical institution, receives over 1 500 women for baby delivery every month but only has 10 out of the required 100 qualified midwives at the maternity wing.
In an interview last week, Harare Hospital’s acting chief executive Mr George Vera confirmed the crisis in the maternity wing, saying: “To us they (midwives) are like gold. We are in a crisis and this has compromised service delivery in the maternity wing.
“At the moment we only have 10 midwives and with the pressure of work we have here, things are not well, considering that a day we can do an average of 10 to 15 caesarean operations.
“At the same time, we have to attend to over 100 women who also need the same services from these 10 midwives,” said Mr Vera.
He said they were trying to ameliorate the situation by having in-house training programmes to boost the number of midwives.
“At the moment we are having our own internal training of midwives and we now have 20 women on the programme.
“We have raised the matter with our parent ministry and we are still waiting for their assistance,” said Mr Vera.
A source at the hospital said the situation was dire two weeks ago as only three midwives were available then.
“A fortnight ago there were only three midwives and this is dangerous as some of the students were now taking the role of midwives. They are not trained to handle such cases,” said the source.
Health and Child Welfare Deputy Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora recently said the Government was taking measures to increase the number of trained midwives, adding that primary care nurses were now undergoing midwifery training for six months before graduating.
A recent report on Zimbabwe’s progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, complied by the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organisation, said about 80 percent of the posts for midwives were vacant in the public sector.
“The shortage of skilled and competent midwives can avert 80 to 90 percent of maternal deaths. The shortage of skilled and competent midwives can result in women and their newborns dying from the complications that could be prevented by a health worker with the right skills, the right equipment and the right support,” the report said.
The lack of midwives has severely hindered Zimbabwe’s chances of meeting Millennium Development Goal Five, which seeks to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015 while also improving the ratio of pregnancies attended to by skilled health professionals. -The Sunday Mail