Maternal deaths in decline
Potentially preventable diseases in pregnancy receive top attention
Maternal deaths in the province are on a slow but steady decline as the treatment of potentially preventable diseases in pregnant women receives the priority it needs.
Health MEC Helen Sauls-August told provincial legislature on Tuesday that the deaths of women during pregnancy or within 40 days of giving birth decreased from 135 for every 100,000 live births in 2016 to 128 per 100,000 in 2018.
This was one of the successes shared in Sauls-August’s annual report.
While the report indicated a slight decrease in maternal death figures, it said the department was still burdened by deaths caused by other diseases like HIV and high blood pressure. Sauls-August said most maternal deaths still occurred in the OR Tambo district at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, which serviced patients referred from hospitals in Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo and Chris Hani districts.
She said high blood pressure was most prevalent in teen pregnancies, which remained at crisis level in the province.
The Dispatch reported in July that 3,907 girls aged between 15 and 19 gave birth at Eastern Cape health facilities between January and March. In the same period 77 girls under 15 gave birth.
“The region has high teen pregnancies resulting in high prevalence of hypertension. Hypertension in pregnancy is the second leading cause of death after HIV.
“Obstetric haemorrhage is the third [highest] cause of maternal deaths.”
Sauls-August said mother to child HIV transmission had also significantly decreased due to early antenatal care for pregnant women and having more than 90% of HIVpositive mothers registered on HIV treatment plans. She said the department was collaborating with the department of education to focus on reducing teen pregnancy and increasing antenatal visit coverage.
According to Sauls-August, the Western Cape records the lowest maternal mortality at 68.30 per 100,000 live births, followed by KZN at 127.14. The Free State is currently the worst province, with 174.63 per 100,000 live births.
The annual report sings praises of the department’s continued work to “fulfil its obligations and mandate of delivering quality healthcare services to the people of this province”. “The department is making progress towards delivering quality health services to the citizens of the Eastern Cape even under a constrained environment heavily impacted by the ever growing demand for health services and the scourge of medicorelated claims,” Sauls-August said.