Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has practically demystified what has always been regarded as mysterious death of pregnant women in the state through his N3,000 monthly antenatal care allowance and easy access to health facilities in the 105 wards of the state. OSA OKHOMINA examines the deal for pregnant women in the state
In Bayelsa, the increase in the number of deaths resulting from pregnancy has continued to send chills down the spines of husbands and families alike.
Few months ago, the mysterious death of a 25 years old pregnant housewife along the Ebis Mechanic road in Amarata area of Yenagoa Local Government Council Area of the State sparked off controversy and added to the fearful numbers in various parts of the state.
The deceased housewife, identified as Blessing and an indigene of Epie speaking part of the state capital, reportedly vomited blood and died few hours later after attempts by neigbours and family members to save her by administering medical care failed.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that the husband of the deceased, identified as Tunde, has been arrested by the Police after some neighbours and angry Epie indigenes accused him of contributing to the death of the woman due to his refusal to release money to fund treatment needed by the wife.
Tunde, the husband of the deceased, according to residents of the area, was beaten to a pulp by irate youths of the area who alleged he was responsible for in the death of his wife.
Our correspondent gathered that Tunde, a beneficiary of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, deals on generator Engine Oil.
A friend to Tunde, who pleaded anonymity, claimed that the only crime of the husband was his refusal to come home and sponsor the medical treatment needed by the sick wife before she died.
According to him, “Tunde is an indigene of Ibadan in Oyo State and spent most of his life in Bayelsa State. The deceased and Tunde had three kids and have been having issues and quarrels in the last few weeks,” he said, adding, “A fortnight ago, they had a quarrel and Tunde left home in anger.”
This death like many others, had created some sense of fear and anxiety among wives and their husbands especially those within child bearing age.
100 deaths recorded yearly
A check shows that over a 100 cases of this type of ‘mysterious’ deaths occur in the state annually.
The state Commissioner for Health, Professor Ebitimitula Etebu who confirmed the figure, said, the state government is putting adequate measures in place to arrest the situation.
He blamed ignorance on the part of the people and their patronage of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), many of whom are not qualified to handle emergency cases.
Professor Etebu, who revealed that the maternal mortality ratio in the state is not better than what is obtainable at the national level, stressed that, the state government is disturbed and concerned about it, hence it opted to organize a summit with relevant stakeholders, traditional leaders, women, medical practitioners and traditional birth attendants participating.
He said the summit is apt as it gave all stakeholders to x-ray the issues related to maternal mortality in the state and proffer solutions.
Gov Dickson responds, gives pregnant women better deal
Unlike past administrations in Bayelsa, Governor Seriake Dickson has responded to the alarming rate of maternal mortality in the state by presenting a cheque of N1.2 billion to the state Ministry of Health and the Primary Healthcare Development Board. This is part of the N3 billion earmarked for the construction of health care facilities in each of the 105 political wards in the state, as part the government’s strategy to reduce infant and maternal mortality rate.
Speaking at the state’s first Maternal and Infant Mortality Summit and Launch of Safe Motherhood, Governor Dickson also announced a special Safe Maternity Allowance of N3, 000 monthly to every pregnant woman in the state for the duration of the pregnancy.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Francis Ottah Agbo said, the Governor also announced the release of N100 million to the Ministry of Health for the payment of the special allowances, in addition to the provision of free medication to all pregnant women in the state.
Governor Dickson, who directed the Ministry of Health and its medical team to ensure the completion of the building of health centres across the 105 wards by December, this year, stated that, the efforts are part of measures, towards promoting safe motherhood and called on community leaders, women, opinion leaders and other stakeholders to be part of the process of ensuring that no death of pregnant woman is recorded in Bayelsa.
According to the governor, “Every pregnant woman living in Bayelsa is entitled to N3, 000, until delivery and it will be accessed upon registration for anti-natal programme at the nearest medical facility for safe delivery. This is to ensure that, the health team gives me information on the number of pregnant women in the state. I want a report on their delivery; that’s how serious we take this issue of infant and maternal mortality.
“In the event of any thing going wrong, I will give directive for a special coronary inquest, check the integrity and conduct of medical personnel involved or the traditional birth attendant responsible, so that I will know the consequences that will follow.”
Governor Dickson, who also announced that the Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme had saved N1.5 billion, urged the people to avail themselves of the health care services provided by the state government, just as former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had done.
According to him, Chief Obasanjo flew into the country from New York and Atlanta and didn’t do his health check there, but came to Bayelsa to examine his health in the state-of-the-art facilities we have built and he has done so successfully.
“While I thank Baba for enrolling in our Health Insurance Scheme and showcasing our health facilities that are second to none, the lesson here is that, it is important for all of us to do our routine health checks.”
Speaking as Chairman of the occasion, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo described the health facility in Bayelsa as superb and recommended them for all Nigerians and beyond to take advantage of the quality health services, rather than travelling abroad for medical attention.
Obasanjo, who said he remains a partner and an advocate of Governor Dickson’s efforts in raising the standard in health care delivery in the state, expressed hope that, successive administrations would maintain the standard.
“When I was here earlier this year, I saw the standard of facilities that could be used by all Nigerians instead of going to the United Kingdom, Dubai, India for medical check-up,” he said. “I had gone through all the medical checks; my head, eyes, mouth and I was told that my brain is clear, indicating that, my head is correct. And not only that, the services were superb and affordable.
“What people are going to UK and India for, is here in Bayelsa State. If we have the facility that is of world standard, why should our pregnant women be dying? By the time you complete your tenure, Bayelsa will not be the same again. I am a witness and beneficiary of your health services and you are changing the face of Bayelsa on a daily basis. You have a partner and an advocate in me.
“It will be a shame, if Governor Dickson leaves office and you Bayelsans allow the standard to fall. So those of you who will take the mantle of responsibility, you must not fall below the set standard.”
In her speech, wife of the Governor, Dr. Rachael Dickson, who reiterated the need for pregnant women to be able to give birth safely, avowed that, with the huge investment by the government in the health sector, the infant and maternal death rate in the state would be drastically reduced.
She expressed appreciation to Governor Dickson for building health centres in every ward, as well as prioritizing women’s affair with the appointment of about 400 women into various positions of trust in his administration, and called on them to take advantage of the free health care centres.
The First Lady expressed worry over the number of avoidable deaths, saying most of them would not have occurred if adequate care was given to the women.
According to her, “Every pregnant woman in the state is very important to the government as the nine months’ period of their pregnancy is very sensitive and requires the needed attention.
“We will be paying our women who are pregnant monthly to ensure they are able to buy whatever they need. We will also care for them medically to ensure that cases of maternal and infant mortality are reduced.
“Most of the deaths you hear of involving pregnant women could have been avoided if they were well cared for.
Already, the Bayelsa State Government has inaugurated a sensitization campaign committee to spread the message of the Safe Motherhood Initiative which was recently launched by the government.
The State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson said the committee is saddled with the responsibility of taking the message of Safe Motherhood to all communities in the state.
According to him, “We will be working with the Ministry of Health and the Primary Health Care Board. We will take this message to every community. We are going to deploy every means available to us whether conventional or unconventional. But focus would be given to the unconventional because we need to get this message to everybody if we have to.
“We want at the end of the day to bring everybody particularly the pregnant women, whether they are married or not, so long as you are a resident of this state and you are pregnant. Our role at the Ministry of Information and Orientation will be to ensure that the message gets to every person in our community.
“We will be working with key stakeholders in every community because all hands have to be on deck. It is sad that we are losing our pregnant women but we now have the responsibility to put a stop to that.
”It is not a job for one man and that is why we said all hands must be on deck. Those whose names would be called today will serve as the coordinators. Every Information Officer in the state, including those in our local government areas will be part of this campaign.”
Iworiso-Markson explained that Governor Seriake Dickson is concerned about the lives of pregnant women and has created the opportunity to ensure that the state records zero rate of infant and maternal mortality.
He called on people of the state, especially those in the rural areas to accord the committee all the assistance they need in order to make their job smooth.
On his part, the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu while praising Gov. Dickson for approving the sensitization campaign, said the committee will go to each household, identify pregnant women and other categories of health status in every household.
He said: “This committee is going to get the records of pregnant women. They will make sure that every pregnant woman is informed as regards this initiative and the incentives to each pregnant woman to ensure that they come to the facilities we have and be attended to by birth attendants”.
Also speaking the Chairperson of the State Primary Health Care Board, Mrs. Victoria Denenu described the assignment of the committee as very important.
She appealed to members of the committee, to make sure every woman goes to the community health centre nearest to them to register, stressing that no woman must die as a result of pregnancy related cause.
Responding on behalf of the committee, the chairman, Mr. Chris Odi expressed appreciation for the honour to serve and promised to diligently carry out the assignment.
New Policy is not to encourage unwanted pregnancy–Amieyefa, Media Aide to health commissioner
Meanwhile the Media Aide to the Health Commissioner, Mr. Yola Amieyefa has dismissed as irrelevant the claims that the new policy and payment of N3,000 antenatal stipends will encourage increase in unwanted pregnancy.
Amieyefa said the purpose of the new stipend is to provide transport token to pregnant women to move to seek proper care at recognised health facilities and discourage complication from visits to Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA).
“Some of those who are of the opinion that the N3,000 stipend to women will encourage unwanted pregnancy are wrong. It will encourage pregnant women to visit accredited health centres,” he said.
“The Policy is to encourage pregnant women to have at least four ante-natal care and to discourage visits to TBAs. The money has not been released and the programme has not taken off. The programme will take off after the sensitization tour in which the women will make input.”