As Nigeria celebrated the Safe Motherhood Week, gaps were observed across all the hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory, where findings revealed that pregnant women still find it difficult to access ante natal services. Yet, ante natal care is touted as one of the highly skilled interventions that could help in reducing the country’s high maternal mortality rate. WINIFRED OGBEBO reports.
A decade of research has shown that small and affordable measures can significantly reduce the health risks that women face when they become pregnant.
Experts posit that most maternal deaths could be prevented if women had access to appropriate health care during pregnancy, childbirth, and immediately afterwards.
According to the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS 2008), the maternal mortality rate in Nigeria is 545 per 100,000 live births while another assessment by the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2007, estimated that about 59,000 women in Nigeria die annually from pregnancy-related causes, ranking the country as having the second highest maternal mortality in the world.
However, accessing ante natal services in general hospitals in Abuja is not as easy as our correspondent found out. Our findings revealed that most of these pregnant women go as early as 6 am to keep appointments at various hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory where they are registered.
At Wuse General Hospital, Abuja, if not for the ante natal sign, one could have mistaken the sea of faces, as you step into the hall of the hospital, for a women gathering of some sorts, until, perhaps, you see the protruding stomachs of varying sizes, and then you conclude that it is, indeed, a ‘gathering’ of sorts for these pregnant women.
They are all seated; some on plastic chairs while some of them are stretched out on long benches, facing the direction of the nurses and matrons, who had files and sheaf of papers on the table in front of them.
Intermittently, the nurses would reel out some instructions, read from their records, and call the number of the lucky one whose turn it was to see the matron or doctor as the case may be.
For the one whose number is called, she heaves a deep sigh of relief as she has been saved from a long wait.
Some women likened the ordeal they go through in accessing care during pregnancy to the proverbial camel going through the eye of a needle.
Yet it’s not restricted to one hospital alone. The scenario is replicated in all the general hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory, including the National Hospital, Abuja.
Mrs. Agnes Odutunde who resides in Mararaba, a suburb on the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory, said she was at the Wuse General Hospital, the previous day to register her name at 12 am. This, she said, was to enable her be one of the earliest people to see the matron. However, she explained that she couldn’t go back home that day after collecting a number, so she had to sleep over at the hospital.
But despite the rigours she had gone through to be one of the earliest people to be attended to, Odutunde was still waiting at 2 pm to see the matron. Her number was 127.
A mother of three, she disclosed that the process wasn’t as difficult when she put to bed two years ago, and that there seemed to be an increase in the population of pregnant women in Abuja.
But despite that, she said, “The hospital was still her first place of choice.”
Another woman who refused her name on print and who was carrying her first pregnancy, said she came to the hospital as early as 6 am for ante natal visit but was yet to be attended to as at 3 pm.
At Asokoro General Hospital, the story is not different. Mrs. Mariya Sa’id who lives at Mararaba, and carrying her second pregnancy left home as early as 5 :30 am just to beat traffic and got to the hospital at 6 am. After some hours spent waiting, she was able to see the nurse about 2: 30 pm.
LEADERSHIP WEEKEND findings revealed that ante natal clinics in most of the general hospitals in and outside Abuja are stretched to the limit in catering for these pregnant women.
Corroborating this, Mr. Ignatius Eze, a civil servant who lives at Kubwa, a suburb in the FCT, whose wife also went through the rigorous process of delivery, said the general hospitals at the suburbs were not as populated like those in Maitama, Wuse, Garki and Asokoro as some women still prefer to go to them for ante natal because of their belief that they have better qualified personnel.
Sa’id noted that the nurses and matrons at the Asokoro General Hospital have always encouraged them to patronise general hospitals close to them so that they can be adequately catered for.
Most of them allude to different reasons why they continue to patronise the hospitals at the city centre instead of the ones close to them.
Justina Adolu, a full time housewife, argued that she felt no qualms coming all the way from where she stays at Mararaba, because according to her, she was not getting the desired attention from the one close to her. A mother of two, she explained that during her first pregnancy, she did some ante natal visits in the general hospital at Mararaba before she switched over to the one at Asokoro.
A teacher, Mrs. Gift Thompson, described the attitude of the health workers in the general hospital at Nyanya where she lives as “too sharp.”
She said, “You are always shouted down at any given opportunity. Even when you raise your hand to ask a question, they will not entertain it.
“I decided that even though the services are free, I couldn’t continue to take the insults they heap on us after my first delivery there. Here in Asokoro, they treat you with respect. They entertain any question you ask them.”
Another civil servant who pleaded anonymity queried why she should attend the staff hospital close to her at Garki where she resides.
She said, “How do you expect me to go for ante natal at the Federal Staff Hospital close to me? Do you know that even though it is supposed to be a government hospital, it’s very expensive?
Comparing both prices, she argued, “To buy baby things in Asokoro does not exceed N5, 000, but in Garki you spend more than N10, 000. In Asokoro, you pay about N1, 000 for normal delivery and about N10, 000 at the staff clinic.
Just the other day, I conducted some tests and the money I paid was not more than N1, 000, but if it were in the staff clinic close to me, I would have coughed out more than N5,000.”
Speaking further, the civil servant said, “Pray not to have complications during pregnancy at the staff clinic, otherwise you will pay through your nose.