The mood outside the labour ward at Nkhotakota District Hospital was sombre Thursday morning.
Pregnant women, who lined up along the ward’s hallway, were seemingly meditating on what had happened to 31-year-old Edith Banda who died while in labour in the small hours of Thursday.
A source at the hospital said the woman died when her uterus ruptured, after she fell from a hospital bed as the nurse on duty then was attending to another patient.
Ironically, the incident coincided with a sit-in due to Covid-19 pandemic, of junior staff at the district hospital which conducts at least 20 deliveries a day.
Another expectant woman, who witnessed the incident, said the deceased developed labour at around midnight but was told to wait for an hour as the nurse was attending to another woman.
“It was frantic! She moved from the gynaecology ward to the labour ward. Sadly she fell off from bed as she was groaning with labour pains,” she said.
The woman added that the overstretched nurse was later joined by other three colleagues who attempted to save Banda’s life, but it was too late.
While Nation on Sunday could not independently confirm that the woman died because of the sit-in, inside sources said the existing skeleton staff, meant to provide emergency services during the strike was overstretched.
Commenting on the matter, Nkhotakota District Hospital spokesperson MacDonald Chembezi-Ng’oma said the woman died due to other complications, insisting that it had nothing to do with the sit-in.
He said on the fateful day four nurses were on duty, and they tried their best to save Banda’s life.
“The woman died due to other causes, not because of negligence. We have skeleton staff attending to emergencies and on this particular case, four nurses tried to save the life of the woman,” said Chembezi-Ng’oma.
Arriving at the deceased’s home in Kulinji Village in Traditional Authority Kanyenda around 11.27am on Thursday, the scene was heart-breaking.
Village head Kulinji, the deceased’s uncle, said the family was devastated by the incident and blamed government and the striking staff for the loss.
“Hospitals are meant to save lives. We are so devastated. Women are encouraged to deliver at hospitals but incidents like this will definitely scare them away,” he said.
Kulinji pleaded with government and the striking workers to reach a compromise on the matter.
Equally concerned was Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe, who described the incident as unfortunate, and also urged government to find a lasting solution to the health workers’ grievances.
“This confirms our fear that behind the labour withdrawal by our health workers there would be people losing lives. This is affecting the poor greatly. The differences must be resolved as a matter of urgency for the sake of ordinary Malawians who cannot afford private health care,” he said.