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Criminals strike again - UHWI post-natal home care no longer available in some communities

Published:Sunday | May 6, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

The crime monster has again forced the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) to scale back its domiciliary (home visit) service.

Similar to the late 1970s and the period leading to the 1980 general election when crime caused the hospital to scale back, the criminals have again forced an adjustment to the service which is offered free to all post-natal mothers who were patients of the hospital.

Nursing director for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the hospital, Carol Nash, last week told The Sunday Gleaner that challenges have forced the nurses to cut back on home visits to some areas and, in some cases, mothers and babies are later found to be in need of vital health care.

"This service started in 1956, to facilitate training of the midwifery students. This was fashioned from the British system. But in 1980, with the political violence of the period, supervised home-birth service was discontinued," said Nash.

Three decades later, crime remains a factor, and the nurses have again made adjustments to the programme.

"We have had to ask some clients to come to us. Crime and violence have caused us to take that action, plus some areas are really inaccessible to our service," said Nash.

Difficulty getting to patients

She was supported by registered midwife Olubunmi Asunmo, who said getting to some patients is often very difficult.

"Sometimes you have to park far and cross gullies on a piece of plank. Then you have to go into some narrow alleys to find the mothers. On top of that, you may have to deal with dogs," said Asunmo.

This was endorsed by nearly all the eight registered midwives who were waiting to begin their daily service when The Sunday Gleaner visited the hospital last week.

Chief midwife, Sister Sheila Bonnick, said the midwives have rescued several mothers and new-borns facing serious illnesses after their discharge from the hospital.

"The most common problem we find among post-natal mothers is high blood pressure. Then fever, jaundice among the newborns, and dehydration when the mothers don't know how to properly breastfeed," said Sister Bonnick.

Other common problems include: "Diaper rash on the babies as the mothers don't change them until the diapers are soaking. Sometimes there is post-partum depression with the mothers and hygiene issues, where they don't take care of themselves and the babies," said another midwife.

She recalled how the intervention of a domiciliary team, several years ago, saved the life of a young child who they realised was gravely ill.

"We bustled the child out of the house and went straight to the hospital," she said.

Demand is sometimes very high, and Sister Bonnick said in spite of the challenges, the service is providing vital assistance.

"It would be very sad if the service was no longer available," she stated.