Vhahangwele Nemakonde
Digital Journalist
7 minute read
18 Feb 2021
10:33 am

Newborn dies a day after Tembisa hospital discharge

Vhahangwele Nemakonde

'While my baby was coming, the sister just stood there and watched while instructing me to catch my baby, otherwise he will fall off the bed and die.'

This picture was taken in Thembisa Hospital's maternity ward. Gama (38) claimed that Sphamandla was still not bathed until the morning after his birth. She showed the picture that was time-stamped and added that she had to wash the placenta off his face with a washcloth.

Admitted as a high-risk pregnancy patient at Tembisa Provincial Tertiary Hospital on 15 October, Thoko Precious Gama, 38, thought she’d be taking home a healthy boy.

He was named Sphamandla at birth. He died a day after being discharged. Gama has since reached out to Express/Thembisan to highlight what she describes as poor treatment of patients at Thembisa Hospital.

She hopes that with the right interventions and actions, other mothers like her would not have to mourn the death of their newborn.

Gama alleged that she was traumatised when she also witnessed the alleged ill-treatment of other patients and the death of twin babies and their mother.

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Sphamandla’s birth

Gama alleged that negligence and mistreatment by the hospital’s maternity ward staff resulted in her baby’s death on 21 October.

Sphamandla was born on October 19, following a complicated birth identified as a high-risk pregnancy as Gama had been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

“It started with a male nurse who was moving me from the maternity ward to a labour room. He was instructed to take me back as she believed I was not ready to give birth,” Gama told Express/Thembisan.

“The sister on duty instructed me to go back to bed and said ‘open your legs’. She said this in a manner that was demeaning and made me feel uncomfortable.

The sister allegedly said: “You opened your legs when you had sex, but now you are slow to open them.”

After examining Gama, the sister announced that she had only been dilated 2cm at that stage. When Gama saw a doctor passing by, she requested him to confirm how far she was dilated.

“The doctor examined me and also addressed the sister about the way she spoke to me.”

During the doctor’s examination, Gama’s water broke. The doctor grew concerned that the baby’s heart rate was abnormal and requested that she urgently sign a permission form to have the baby delivered via a C-section.

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“Once I signed, all the staff present left the room and I was alone. The next moment I felt intense abdominal pain and shouted to the nurses that it felt like I was about to have a bowel movement.

“I started to push and felt my baby was on his way. Again, I shouted at the nurses that my baby was coming and that I was in severe pain.”

When the same sister re-entered the room, Gama said: “You want me to die?”

“She then replied ‘Mandela also died – who are you?’ She asked whether I think I was immune to death,” Gama said.

The mother felt her baby working his way through the birth canal under the sister’s supervision. She gave birth before a C-section could be performed.

“While my baby was coming, the sister just stood there and watched while instructing me to catch my baby, otherwise he will fall off the bed and die.”

Gama told Express/Thembisan that she single-handedly pulled her baby to her chest and noticed that her baby had not yet started crying.

“Only after 10 to 15 minutes did my baby start crying and to this day, I’m unsure whether the staff had cleared his throat with the vacuum. I didn’t see this procedure being performed,” she said, referring to this procedure being performed during the birth of her older child.

The sister cut the umbilical cord and recorded the baby’s vitals in his medical record. Sphamandla’s medical records showed no clear indication that his jaundice count was checked before being discharged.

Gama additionally noted that her baby was allegedly not properly bathed until the next morning. This is evident in a photograph, time-stamped October 20 at 6.50am, she presented to the Express/Thembisan.

“I had to take a washcloth myself just to wipe off the remaining placenta as best I could. Despite my baby not eating or having bowel movements in the hospital, we were both discharged on October 20.”

She alleged that the staff communicated that the hospital was full and that they had to leave for urgent patients to receive care.

Gama said she felt tremendous abdominal pain after being discharged from hospital.

After she buried her baby boy, she went to a Kempton doctor on 30 October.

“The doctor told me that I had a very high infection count for which I was prescribed a course of antibiotics.”

When asked whether the passing of her afterbirth was properly facilitated, she recalled that the medical staff was preoccupied and that by the time it naturally passed, the hospital’s cleaning lady had to assist her with its removal.

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Her baby died at approximately 9.15pm when her daughter, who was holding him, noticed that he wasn’t breathing.

They called the ambulance and the baby was declared dead upon arrival.

The hospital’s communications manager, Noko Pela, confirmed that Gama was admitted to the maternity ward and gave birth to a baby boy.

Disciplinary procedures

In terms of the hospital’s disciplinary and investigative powers, Pela said concerns should be raised with the Department of Health. The concerns focused on the disciplinary procedures enforced on staff members, such as *Sr Brittany, who have been highlighted in Gama’s allegations.

Addressing Gama’s allegations, Pela said: “There is no evidence that states any wrongdoing about this patient. However, every health facility under the Department of Health has a labour relations policy which guides them if staff members are suspected of malpractice.

“If staff members are not in a good space, there are wellness programmes to assist them and to ensure a healthy work environment.”

Thembisa Hospital’s mandated protocol in the maternity ward

The focus was drawn to mandated protocols followed in the maternity ward once a patient has been admitted as a high-risk pregnancy.

“We follow the National Maternity Guidelines,” Pela replied without further reference to Gama’s high-risk status.

“There is a National Guideline on Patient Safety Incident Reporting and Learning in the Public Health Sector (April 2017),” Pela continued.

“Thembisa Hospital at all times ensures that all staff members who are appointed by the facility are people who meet the requirements of any post that is advertised, as well as people who have the necessary experience and specialised skills to be able to handle the task that they are appointed for.”

On the baby’s throat-clearing procedure, Pela said: “There was no indication of suctioning of the baby. Please refer to the Gauteng Department of Health when it comes to issues of disciplinary staff members.”

On allegations about the deaths of mothers and babies in the ward during Gama’s stay, Pela said that he could neither confirm nor deny the allegations made by the patient in question.

“Issues that relate to patient care, as well as information, cannot be disclosed to the public,” Pela said.

A media enquiry which included questions regarding disciplinary procedures was sent to the national and provincial departments of health on November 27.

This article was republished from Kempton Express with permission

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