No help for tiny baby

2011-04-06 00:00

A 20-YEAR-OLD woman claims that staff at Northdale Hospital did nothing to save her premature baby on Monday evening, but left the child with her to die.

Raquel van der Merwe was five months pregnant when she developed stomach pains in the afternoon and started to bleed.

She went to Northdale Hospital at about 6 pm where she was allegedly made to wait in the casualty ward for more than an hour.

“I told the nurses that I was bleeding and had contractions only to be told to wait for a gynaecologist who arrived after a long time. I was taken to the labour ward, but for some reason they brought me back to casualty and I was again told to wait. The contractions became worse and I told the gynaecologist that I couldn’t hold back anymore.

“She took me to a secluded area in the casualty and that’s where I delivered my baby,” said Van der Merwe.

But the worst was still to come. She was told her baby girl would not survive for more than 15 minutes.

“They didn’t wipe her clean or wrap her in towels or blankets. They didn’t attempt to save my baby by putting her on oxygen or into an incubator like other premature babies.

“The baby was making movements with her legs like any other child and yes, she was tiny, but I believe they could have at least tried to treat her like any other child.

“She survived for about two hours, contrary to the 15 minutes they gave her. The ultrasound lady told me that my baby had no lungs and her eyes were not fully formed, yet she was breathing,” she said.

Throughout the night Van der Merwe slept holding her now dead baby.

One of the government’s Batho Pele principles of service requires healthcare workers to show courtesy and empathy to patients.

Van der Merwe said nurses showed no courtesy towards her.

“I’ve gone through a lot from that hospital. In the morning [Tuesday] I was transferred to the P ward where I was allocated a bed next to a woman who had just given birth to a healthy baby. Couldn’t they have thought of the trauma they were causing to me? In one of the cards they use to record patient information they wrote that my baby survived for an hour, yet I know it was about two hours. Didn’t they say she will survive for 15 minutes?

“Didn’t the hour they recorded warrant my baby to be put on life support machines?” asked the grief-stricken young mother.

THE Health Department head office granted The Witness permission to interview Van der Merwe in hospital, provided that she agreed to be interviewed.

But at the hospital various senior nursing staff vehemently denied this reporter access to the patient, although she had agreed to the interview through a friend who alerted the newspaper to her ordeal.

Hospital acting chief executive officer Joyce Webster said the head office should forward details of the patient and what the interview was about.

Spokesperson Chris Maxon forwarded an e-mail to the hospital confirming permission for the interview, but the reporter was still denied access.

Maxon then said the reporter would have to wait until Van der Merwe was discharged.

E-mails were sent to both the department and hospital for comment, but no response was received from either.

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