Baby dies while mom waits for ambulance

SOUTH AFRICA - Cape Town - 6 March 2019 - The feet of a 4 month old female girl. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

A youngmotherfrom Imizamo Yethu lost her newborn baby after waiting three hours for an ambulance to arrive.

Nosihle Maphempeni, 23, a single and unemployed mother, went into early labour last Wednesday and gave birth to her baby in her shack, with only her 4-year-old daughter Oluhle to help.

According to neighbours, Nosihle was only due to give birth in June. But on Wednesday, at 7am, she gave birth to a then-still-living baby boy.

Her daughter Oluhle, who witnessed everything, was sent to call for help. A neighbour,Patience Magwana, came rushing to find Nosihle in a pool of blood.

Another neighbour, Chiedza Chikowore, rushed to the Hout Bay fire station to seek assistance from emergency services. She told the Sentinel News she was sent away, and told to wait for the ambulance to arrive.

“Nosihle was in great pain, even though the baby was already born, she kept complaining of cramps and she didn’t stop bleeding. When I arrived at the fire station and saw the paramedics, I was told to go back and wait for the ambulance. The ambulance only arrived at 10am, only 10 minutes after we realised the baby was dead.”

According to Ms Chikowore, she repeatedly dialled 10177, the emergency services hotline – which the fire station officials told her to dial. But all she heard from them was “the ambulance is on its way”. Ms Chikowore says the ambulance was apparently en route from Fish Hoek.

“We feel angry, hurt, and helpless. They are leaving us out here to look after ourselves or die.

“Every Saturday people from Imizamo Yethu are burying their family members because they don’t have access to healthcare. If the ambulance [operators] weren’t going to take us seriously, they should have told us. We could have made another plan, like taking her to the hospital ourselves.”

Ms Magwana, who stayed with Nosihle after she gave birth, said the baby was alive for a long time after birth and could easily have been saved, if emergency services took their plea seriously.

“When Chiedza came back from the fire station the baby was still alive and making hiccup noises. We aren’t doctors and nurses, we want to help, but we didn’t know what to do. So many babies and mothers die in IY, we just want someone to hear us and help us, “ she said.

Ms Chikowore shared in the concern. “There are many sick people in IY, but they don’t want to go to the clinic because a trip there takes a whole day. People have jobs, they can’t and don’t want to sit at the clinic all day. We feel like you have to make an appointment to be sick – and only between 7.30am and
4pm.

“There’s no place for emergencies. Hout Bay needs its own 24-hour clinic. And if the government can’t give us that, we need to know what they’re going to do help us now. It feels like they don’t care about us at all.”

According to Ms Chikowore, Nosihle is still in hospital at Groote Schuur, since she lost so much blood after giving birth. “On Wednesday morning, we were afraid she was going to die, she was in shock and her eyes were turning back. We hoped she’d be released by now, but she’s has a high temperature and her blood pressure is fluctuating, so the doctors won’t discharge her.”

According to John Gysman of the Hout Bay fire station, who was on duty at the time of the event, he doesn’t recall Ms Chikowore asking for help, despite her saying fire station officials called the ambulance on her behalf.

“Our records show nothing like that happening on Wednesday April 24. But if we couldn’t help her, it’s because we are under immense pressure. People in the are so used to running to the fire station for help because there isn’t a 24-hour medical facility in the area. We aren’t doctors, and we don’t always have the necessary resources or training to help those in need.”

The Western Cape health department’s spokesperson Mark van der Heever told the Sentinel News they’re still looking into the case, but at present they don’t have any particulars.

He said that due to the spate of attacks on emergency service workers, they cannot enter any unsafe area without a police escort – especially since there were recent threats of protest. “This has a knock-on effect on response times and causes delays which could have contributed to the allegation of delayed response,” he added.

Mr Van der Heever said that regarding improved access to health service in the area, “discussions were held in 2018 to offer a more comprehensive package of care in a new facility. These are not finalised yet, but the community’s concerns are being looked into by the health department.”