Mother weeps at the memory of her baby's death at Mpumalanga hospital

09 November 2018 - 18:15 By Nonkululeko Njilo
The Mpumalanga department of health has promised to share the results of an investigation into the matter.
The Mpumalanga department of health has promised to share the results of an investigation into the matter.
Image: Sfpater/123RF

Prudence Mokoena watched helplessly as her prematurely-born baby’s body started changing colour in a hospital ward at Mpumalanga’s Shongwe Hospital.

There was a lack of oxygen in the ward, Mokoena had just been told – and less than 24 hours after the child was born, she was dead.

Mokoena, a 21-year-old first-time mom, was excited after the successful natural delivery of her child on Sunday. The excitement of her baby girl was all the greater seeing that she gave birth after seven months of pregnancy.

“As I was holding her, the colour of her skin started changing, especially the legs and hands. They started going blue or grey,” Mokoena told TimesLIVE.

Her child was one of two infants who died in the hospital’s facility, amid allegations that the causes of death were a lack of oxygen. The provincial health department has ordered the hospital to explain what happened.

“I was frightened,” Mokoena said of that harrowing day. “I didn’t know what was happening. A nurse rushed to take the baby and we were kicked out of the ward.”

Mokoena said they were removed after sirens started blaring. “We didn’t know what was happening; we just went out as per the instructions.”

It was not the first time that sirens rang on Monday while mothers in the ward took care of their babies. Nor was it the first time they were kicked out of the ward, Mokoena said.

“At around 3:45pm [on Monday] I was called into an office, where there were a doctor and a nurse. The nurse kept on crying, saying nothing. The way she was crying, I could tell something was wrong with my child.”

Mokoena said she was then alerted that her baby was no more. The little girl’s death was attributed to a lack of oxygen in the ward. “They apologised and told me that it wasn’t my baby alone that had died.”

She said it was difficult coming to terms with how things transpired.

“We heard the nurses saying ‘ioxygen iyashoda’ (which loosely translates to ‘the oxygen is running low’) in the early hours of the morning,” Mokoena told TimesLIVE on Friday.

I am not going to let it go. An apology alone is not enough
Prudence Mokoena

Mokoena said that if the hospital had organised backup oxygen immediately, her child would have been saved.

“I am not going to let it go. An apology alone is not enough. I will be suing the hospital,” the grief-stricken Mokoena said, sobbing.

She said she felt as though she was “robbed” of the opportunity of being a mother for the first time.

Meanwhile, the second mother to have lost her child at the hospital this week – who would only be identified as Nthabiseng - said she was traumatised by the ordeal.

“I don’t want to talk about it for now. I am at the clinic for post-birth check up,” she told TimesLIVE.

The provincial health department launched an investigation into the incident.

MEC Sasekani Manzini visited the hospital on Wednesday, where she formally appointed a task team to thoroughly investigate what had happened, said department spokesperson Dumisani Malamule.

She gave the team a deadline of Friday to submit a full report, which it has done. The contents of the report have however not yet been made public.

Malamule said he could could not respond to the claims made by Mokoena. “For now, we will treat that information as speculation. There is an investigation that will reveal exactly what happened and get to the bottom of this,” he said.

Malamule said the report would only be released next week. “The MEC will study what’s in the report and revert by next week. We will stand by whatever the report will pronounce.”

Meanwhile, the EFF has called for those involved to be held accountable. “This is unacceptable. Someone must account; children can’t just die,” said the EFF’s provincial leader Collen Sedibe.

“Launching an investigation will not assist anything. That’s what they always do: condone an incident and launch investigations, and no one is held to account,” he added.

Malamule said the report would be made public irrespective of its contents. “Everyone will in due course know what happened, whether it clears or implicates the department,” he said.

He added: “If the department must take responsibility, it will. And if certain individuals must take responsibility, they also will.”

The hospital’s corporate manager, Richman Mhlongo, referred all queries to Malamule.

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