Public hospitals have become death traps for pregnant women

Written by Saja

Maternity wards in Gambian hospitals and health centres have become death-traps for pregnant women, who have no options available to them. 

The most recent woman to die at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) in Banjul was Fatou Bayo. A former student of Armitage Senior Secondary School, she was a public health worker. 

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, which is now led by a medical doctor, continues to downplay the severity of the countless crises in the country's maternity wards. 

Award-winning women's rights activist, Jaha Dukureh told What's On-Gambia: "It’s sad that we live in a country where our leaders are more worried about 3 or 5 years when every day a woman dies because she chose to bring a life into this world. No woman should die while giving life. It’s not because I am a women’s rights activist, it’s because I am human and a Gambian and this is not The Gambia I want.

A retired doctor, who begged for anonymity, said: "Our public health facilities were better before the arrival of the young doctors from the University of The Gambia. You know why? Because the nurses were fully trained to handle emergencies and even the remotest health centre had an experienced midwife."

He added: "With the mushrooming of private clinics in the Greater Banjul Area, many doctors are now abandoning the public hospitals and health centres."

The retired doctor further disclosed: "Do you know that corruption and despotism are now becoming deeply rooted in our public healthcare sector? They have what I would call a terri kaffo. Recently, one Dr Bittaye was appointed as Director of Health Services because he is close to the minister. 

"Prof. Ousman Nyan, the provost at the Medical School, is now the Chief Medical Director (CMD). He is hardly at the hospital. You cannot run a school and a major hospital at the same time. It can't work. But they don't care."

He argued that the ministry should come forward and explain to Gambians why so many women still die in childbirth.