The Soloist, Contributor
Whenever I find myself complaining about the ills in our medical system, I look at what prevails in other countries and I usually find some consolation. This time, it's the available maternity care for women. Things are not perfect, but we no longer hear horror stories about three full-term pregnant women to a bed. And we definitely don't have cases of women forced to give birth outside on the grass.
That's what happened on Wednesday October 2, to Irma Lopez, 29. An Associated Press story reports that Lopez had walked for one hour to the clinic from the family's one-bedroom hut in the mountains of northern Oaxaca. It would have taken them longer to get to the nearest highway to catch a ride to a hospital. Having had two other children, she calculated that she didn't have time for the longer journey.
But, apparently, because indigenous people are discriminated against in Mexico, hundreds of women still die during or right after childbirth. She and her husband were dismissed outside by a nurse who told Lopez she was only eight months pregnant and not ready to give birth. Within 30 minutes, her water broke and she had her baby while holding on to the wall of the house next to the clinic.
Naturally, in this age of instant dissemination of information, someone took a picture of Lopez squatting in pain after giving birth, her baby still attached to the umbilical cord and lying on the ground. The picture shocked everyone and the director of the clinic was suspended. The photo received widespread Internet coverage.
Federal investigations were also ordered. According to the AP report, the distraught mother said the nurse told her to go outside and walk, and that a doctor would check her the next morning. "I didn't want to deliver like this. It was so ugly and with so much pain," she said. She endured the birthing process alone because her husband was trying to persuade the nurse to call for help.
"The photo is giving visibility to a wider structural problem that occurs within indigenous communities: Women are not receiving proper care. They are not being offered quality health services, not even humane treatment," said Mayra Morales, Oaxaca's representative for the national Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
I wonder what the outcome of this will be. Will it be nine-day chatter in Mexico as is the norm in Jamaica when atrocities are committed and the talking heads have had their say?
Thank God we have made strides and the days when a village 'nana' delivered babies in a back room of a remote village under less-than-ideal circumstances are long behind us. Census figures in Mexico report that in 2011, nearly one in five women in the state of Oaxaca gave birth in a place that is not a hospital or a clinic. Health officials have urged women to go to clinics to deliver their babies, but many women say the operating hours of the rural centres are limited and staff is small.
Jamaican women, no matter how poor, have access to regular prenatal and postnatal care and babies have to be vaccinated soon after birth so that they are not at risk for communicable diseases. We have made and continue to make significant strides in our overall healthcare system. There is still a lot more to be done and well-thinking citizens must play their part in seeing that those in charge continue to do the work.
Fortunately, Lopez was admitted to the clinic following the birth, and discharged the same day with prescriptions for medications and products; more importantly, she and the baby are fine.
She named the baby Salvador meaning 'saviour', because she believes he saved himself.
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