Women asked to wash clinic linen after delivery
Women who give birth at Mutare District Council clinics wash the linen used during the delivery of their babies.
IN THE event that a mother is unwell or is weak, they are asked to bring along relatives to wash the linen. Overall, the pregnant women interviewed expressed disappointment about washing the green towels and unhygienic conditions prevailing at the council-run clinics in Manicaland.
Women who live far from the clinics wait at the clinics until they deliver their babies. The mothers waiting room at Odzi leaves a lot to be desired.
Bed linen is not changed when the patients leave after delivery and the next person who comes uses the same linen. Dirty linen was on the beds when Manica Post went to investigate.
Visits to some of the clinics also exposed unhealthy practices and conditions not only for pregnant women but other patients and staff working at the clinics.
The clinics do not have running water for patients and visitors to wash their hands and at Zimunya Clinic. When this newspaper went to investigate we found that the public toilets have old broken flushing system and squat toilets that are not flashing. The taps have no running water.
Chitakatira Clinic in Chigodora has only one small tank with used by expecting mothers, patients drinking water, clinic hygiene and staff houses. There was no running water following a week-long power outage.
Residents said the water is pumped by ZINWA to the clinic and it takes a while to fill up tanks that supply the clinic.
All the three clinics visited by Manica Post faced water challenge affecting the clinics and poses a serious health hazard.
“The water runs out at the clinic and the women go to bath and do their laundry at Odzi River and it’s a distance from the clinic and the river is infested with crocodiles,” said a woman who preferred to remain anonymous.
The two beds in the delivery room at Chitakatira Clinic have broken hind legs a situation that is very unsafe considering that women writhe, twist and turn in pain when in labour.
One of the beds has broken leg guides. “Some mothers get overwhelmed by the labour pain and without the leg guides, the nurses really struggle to keep their legs open,” an elderly woman said.
Overgrown grass is evident as well as the enclosed waste zone where there is the incinerator, bottle pit and the pit where placentas are dumped. The rusted handle for the bottle pit is broken.
The toilets at Odzi Clinic are dirty and rusty hand washing basin. There is a sewer stench coming from a leaking sewer pipe near the reception area.
Mutare Rural District Council clinics are understaffed with support staff for many years now and hence the overgrown grounds at some of the clinics.
Clinics are operating without staff to clean the premises and nurse aids and the reason why mothers are now washing hospital linen.
The problem has been compounded by the influx of patients from urban areas seeking free maternity services and shunning urban clinics who charge $35.
Asked to comment, Mutare Rural District Council CEO, Shepherd Chinaka said: “Its regrettable but, there is nothing much we can do.”
He said the five peri-urban clinics; Burma Valley, Chitakatira, Zimunya, Rowa and Odzi, run by the Council do not have support staff (groundsmen and nurse aids.)
Mr Chinaka also said the staff shortage challenge is compounded by the fact that patients living in urban areas flock to these peri-urban clinics because they offer free medical service.
“So, people are travelling to these clinics to get treatment and further putting strain on the understaffed clinics. The ideal situation is to have two qualified nurses plus two unqualified staff consisting a nurse aid and a grounds man at each clinic but due to budgetary constraints the support staff is not there. As council we do not have the authority to hire the staff.”
The CEO also said the staff shortage has been prevailing for three years now. “We have applied to the Ministry of Health and we are waiting for authority to engage those people (support staff). We are also very concerned but our hands are tied up. These people are paid by Government,” Mr Chinaka said.
He also confirmed that the bottle pit and incinerator at Chitakatira urgently need replacement, “but the grant that we get from Result Based Financing (RBF) is not enough to replace, renovate or put up a new structure.”
On the issue of broken wheels of delivery beds, Mr Chinaka said they should have been fixed saying the RBF funds are there to fix them.
He said Odzi Clinic staff shortage is a desperate one. “Practically, the nurses can’t cope. The clinic is serving a very large area including people from surrounding farms. The classification of Odzi Clinic is also unclear. Mr Chinaka said. “It is yet to be pronounced whether Odzi Clinic is a council or Government clinic.”
On mothers washing hospital linen used on them during delivery, Mr Chinaka confirmed the practice saying the current staff shortages has forced the council to ask mothers to wash the linen or urges them to bring along relatives who will wash the linen. “If we had adequate staff we would do it (washing the linen used by mothers during delivery) ourselves,” Mr Chinaka said. Manicaland Provincial Medical Director, Patron Mafaune asked to comment on the crisis said: “I cannot comment, I am not the right person to comment.”
Soiled linen on the bed used by a previous patient that will be used by the next patient at Odzi Clinic. Inset: A filthy wash basin at Odzi Clinic. —Pictures: Dorcas Mhungu