By Providence Moyo
Having to walk at least 25 kilometres every time they need medical services, different stakeholders have expressed concerns on the deficit of health facilities in Tsholotsho’s Phelandaba village which has led to some pregnant women opting to give birth in their homes.
One of the villagers, Sbonakele Sibanda, said some women in Phelandaba have opted to give birth at home due to long distances they have to walk to reach Pumula Mission, the closest hospital to the village.
“Women are at the receiving end of this problem, therefore we need a hospital that is close so that if there is an emergency we get help as soon as possible but now we are relying on Pumula Mission and it is too far,” said Sibanda.
Amongst the women who opted to give birth at home due to the long distance is a 38-year-old mother, Hluphile Ndlovu.
“The distance is too much for pregnant women and those in labour, so I could not bear it and decided to deliver three of my children at home with the assistance of elderly women in the village,” she said.
One Pumula Mission hospital staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity said despite efforts to reserve space for pregnant women who are allowed to stay at the hospital towards their delivery dates, not many can afford to stay at the hospital due to high costs incurred from buying own food and groceries to use while waiting to give birth.
“Due to long distance, as a hospital we have opted for pregnant women to come and stay at the hospital once they are 36 weeks pregnant but they have to bring their own food because we do not have food to give to them as a result some choose not to, especially women from the San community,” she said.
She also added that Pumula Mission Hospitals is currently operating without a doctor, and those whose conditions need doctors, the hospital refers them to Tsholotsho District hospital which is 87.4 kilometres away from Pumula mission.
“Pumula Mission has no ambulance and it relies on Tsholotsho Hospital ambulance for transportation of patients whereby Pumula Mission has to call Tsholotsho hospital ambulance to come and take the patient,” she said.
Phelandaba B line village head Dumisani Mabhena also weighed in that the 2018-2020 drought has killed their livestock and exacerbated the problem for those without means of transport to the hospital. They no longer have draught power to pull scotch carts and only a few people have means to get to Pumula Mission hospital thus increasing chances of more of the women delivering at home.
“Since 2018-2020, there has been insufficient rain so our livestock are dying because of the drought, leaving many people without means of transporting. That is why so many women in the village have deemed it better to seek delivery assistance from the elderly,” he said.
When asked about the state of health care services in his area, Chief Lucky Dlodlo Siposo said he was aware that Pumula Mission had no ambulance to ferry patients.
“I am aware of the situation and the fact that the ambulance has been dysfunctional since early last year. In August last year arrangements were made with Toyota Bulawayo to fix the ambulance but they bought the wrong parts and later on transferred the money back to Tsholotsho campfire which had funded the process of fixing the ambulance,” said Siposo.
Chief Siposo added that arrangements are being made to give basic food to the hospital so that patients are fed during the time they spend at the hospital.
Acting District Medical Officer for Tsholotsho, Doctor Tsikira Nyasha said no woman is encouraged to deliver at home.
“Delivery can sometimes be complicated so we do not encourage any woman to deliver at home especially for first births because there are high risks that involve over bleeding, high blood pressure, some women are diabetic so those circumstances need to be handled by people who are knowledgeable about the process of giving birth and the home environment is not so clean and hygienic sometimes which can cause infections in newborns and or mothers, hence it is very risk to do home deliveries”, said Tsikira.
Meanwhile, the Provincial Medical Director for Matabeleland North, Doctor Mune Padingani said his department is currently working on trying to source visiting doctors for Matabeleland North hospitals as all doctors do not stay long due to electricity problems, poor network connection in the area as well as dysfunctional medical equipment.
He however highlighted that when it comes to the dysfunctional ambulance it is up to the hospital management to find solutions on how such a problem can be solved.