How hospitals give pregnant women a step-motherly treatment

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on May 11, 2020 Published on May 11, 2020

A pregnant woman, accompanied by three women, a man and a nine-year-old child, enters hospital

For a South Delhi-based 37-year-old pregnant nurse and her husband, the realisation that they were both infected with Covid-19 came as a shock but worse was what they had to undergo to get treated.

For both residents of Hauz Rani, a containment zone, getting a Covid test done and getting admission in a hospital was a nightmare, they say.

The nurse who is over seven months’ pregnant is an employee of private-run Max Hospital in Saket. “On May 1, my husband started developing cough and fever. We kept requesting the police that we need to step out for a test, but it took three days to obtain permissions,” the nurse told BusinessLine.

On May 4, they walked for 20 minutes to reach Max Hospital, where they were tested. On May 6, the husband and wife were intimated via phone that they were Covid-19 positive. “We immediately considered getting hospitalised, because I was exhibiting symptoms and my wife is high risk. Max Hospital refused us admission, so I called 100 and an ambulance ferried us to Lok Nayak Hospital where we reached at close to 3 pm,” said the nurse’s husband.

According to a spokesperson from Max Hospital, the hospital does not have facilities to treat pregnant women infected with Covid-19. The nurse’s husband was refused admission because he was only exhibiting mild symptoms. “We have a bed capacity of 108 and currently beds are being reserved for patients who are critical,” the spokesperson added.

Admission delay

The nurse alleged that at the Lok Nayak Hospital, from 3 pm to 9 pm, they were made to wait at the reception before being admitted. The nurse alleged that the staff were rude. “I was spoken to rudely and was directed to multiple counters for admission formalities. The room where I was admitted had no fan and was mosquitoe-ridden. The bedsheets were not clean. I requested for a room change. On May 6, I did not even receive dinner. I had just eaten a biscuit and some water. At 4 am, I pleaded for some food and got two apples and a banana. Also, I was very worried about my husband’s aggravated symptoms now,” she said.

While private hospitals are ill equipped to deal with Covid-19 mothers who are pregnant, expectant mothers who are not infected with Covid-19, are facing trouble accessing maternity care in government hospitals.

On May 3, at 6 pm, Usha (name changed), a pregnant woman was allegedly turned away from Kasturba Hospital and later Jag Pravesh Hospital, before she landed up at Lady Hardinge Hospital which also initially refused her saying she could not be attended to because she was not ‘booked,’ with them. She later had a pre-term birth in Lady Hardinge.

Another patient Preeti (name changed), a resident of Jahagirpuri was ferried to Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital, but was told that the hospital is closed due to a Covid case and was then moved to Deepchand Bandhu Hospital which allegedly told her to go home as her delivery would take ‘time.’ The cases are documented in a letter written by Medical Support Group, a Delhi-based collective to Secretary, Ministry of Health and civic body officials on May 7. Pregnant women are facing difficulties in accessing basic services, despite Delhi High Court orders of April 22, that they should get access to timely and affordable healthcare.

“Our experience in facilitating care for pregnant women has shown that there is denial of care in government hospitals, no proper referrals, informal fees, rude language and difficulties in accessing ambulance services for transport. A helpline for pregnant women as mandated by court has not been implemented,” the letter states.

It appeals that because many private hospitals and nursing homes are shut, the load on public systems is higher, so bed capacity and workforce for maternity wards in government hospitals should be expanded. It also states that transport of a patient to multiple hospitals is risky, as it exposes patients and healthcare teams to infection.Therefore all government hospitals should provide adequate transport facilities for patients, it said.

Published on May 11, 2020

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