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Expectant moms forced to carry childbirth supplies

Published:Sunday | April 14, 2019 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis - Gleaner Writer

Expectant mothers are expressing concern that in addition to taking basic items for their newborns, they have been pressed to provide supplementary supplies, such as enemas and incopads, that should be made available by hospitals.

Enema, a fluid injected into the rectum of pregnant women in order to clear the bowels before the onset of labour, costs up to $300 a bottle. Incopads are used as a protective sheet to prevent soiling of the bedsheet.

According to president of the Nurses’ Association of Jamaica (NAJ), Carmen Johnson, hospitals are beholden to provide these supplies.

“The Government should provide the enema within the facility, so we should not have had to ask patients to carry an enema. In many of the public institutions, they are not providing it, and so the healthcare workers, in an effort to ensure that the best is offered and the best is done, they will say to them on their list that you need to buy an enema, which really and truly is not the patient’s responsibility,” said Johnson.

“When a patient is to buy incopads, most times they get the foam-type incopad, which is not as thick and absorbent as the hospital quality, and so what most institutions do is ensure that they have what we call Mackintosh, so we can use it to protect the bed,” said Johnson.

When The Sunday Gleaner checked with Colleen Wright, CEO of Victoria Jubilee Hospital, she said it is not a matter of shortage of supplies, and if persons don’t carry the items they will still have access to them because it’s a must for the enema, and they will use the incopad, once they are delivering.

“There is a list in the clinic on the wall that speaks to what persons are being asked to take, but when the nurses are giving the talk in the mornings they advise patients to bring the enema and the incopad.

“What we are doing is we are looking at regularising the situation, because if it is our responsibility to do it, we must do it, so I have asked the deputy CEO to look into the matter and we will resolve it,” said Wright.


Over at Spanish Town Hospital, CEO Dwayne Francis said he was unaware of the practice and pledged to investigate the claim.

“Those items are natural stock items that we purchase on a monthly basis. ... That is kind of strange to me,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.

In 2015, an audit of regional health authorities revealed that the maternity and obstetrics units at hospitals in Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine and St Thomas were experiencing a major shortage of items such as linens and gowns. The audit pointed out that enemas were no longer being provided by pharmacies and so women were delivering their babies without them. This resulted in delivery rooms hit by odours. The absence of enemas also presented the risk of infections in newborns.

According to a 2018 quarterly report produced by the Ministry of Health, titled Vitals, more than 32,420 live births occurred in public hospitals between January and December 2017. The majority of those births occurred at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital with 7,200, followed by Spanish Town Hospital with 4,636.