In just one night, Agnes Mbewe, a nurse and midwife at Ntchisi District Hospital and her colleague, Hastings Mwale, helped 11 expectant women to deliver.
They were the only two midwives on duty that night when four Rotarian women took their turn in the Sleepover Challenge organised by Nation Publications Limited as a way of raising funds towards this year’s Mother’s Fun Run, whose proceeds will be in aid of Ntchisi District Hospital.
At just about six in the evening, the quartet arrived at the hospital, welcomed by the district health officer, Zondwayo Ng’oma.
After being briefed about the facility, they went off to appreciate the situation at the maternity ward, where they found about 90 women waiting to give birth.
One of the women was 32-year-old Theresa Aaron from Chikwawe Village in Traditional Authority Chiloko in the district, who is expecting her sixth child.
“I am expecting my baby on September 28 and I thought it wise to come and wait here because if I have any complications, they can be rectified in time,” she explained.
Ntchisi, with a population of 315 589, has an estimated 70 786 women of child-bearing age. The district hospital performs over 400 births in a month with 15-20 deliveries per day.
The challenges are many, as stated by Mbewe: “The maternity wing is always busy, and being understaffed. We barely have time to rest or eat when we are on a shift,” she said.
Mbewe said apart from that, they have few resources to work with.
“There are times we do not even have some of the vital drugs required for our patients where we have to ask them to buy the drugs on their own,” she said.
Mirroring Mbewe’s sentiments, one of the Rotarians, Eveline Vandam noted that with the understaffing, the nurses tend to miss other things.
“I noticed one expectant mother who had been crying for over five hours because there was no one to get the medicine that was prescribed for her,” she explained.
In addition, with inadequate bed space, more than half of the expectant mothers sleep on the floor.
“They are literally belly to belly on the floor. There is just no enough space for all of them, but they have no choice,” she noted.
On her part, Maya Khonje-Stewart expressed worry over the fact that for the time that they were at the hospital, she did not see a single drop of water from the taps.
“How does that work for hygiene?” she wondered.
As an architect, another Rotarian, Maliam Mdoko pointed out that whenever they design hospitals, their hope is that people are going to get better at the hospitals and that the maternity areas will give life.
“We believe the facilities should be good for the expectant mothers as well as those people who work there. I am thankful to all the Rotarians that joined the Sleepover Challenge, and to all the others who sponsored it,” she said.
Apart from appreciating challenges that women go through at the hospital, the four Rotarians also fed 104 patients and nurses breakfast, and gave all the new mothers some presents.