'My newborn baby was denied immunisation, because I tested positive for Covid-19'

"My newborn baby was denied his birth right to be immunized by the hospital"
"My newborn baby was denied his birth right to be immunized by the hospital"

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused havoc for so many, and among the hardest hit has been hospitals and medical staff. Nonetheless, all patients, including expectant mothers, can rightfully expect to be treated with kindness and compassion while in hospital.

This mother unfortunately did not have a happy experience, and wrote to use to share what happened when she arrived, in labour, at a large private hospital in Midrand, Johannesburg, recently. 

Mrs Ndlovu explained to us that she hopes by sharing her story of discrimination and mistreatment, it will stop the stigma - prevalent even in hospitals - and help other new moms have better experience than she did.

Read her own words here:

This is the sad story of discrimination and mistreatment experience I went through at a private hospital in Johannesburg, just because as an expectant mom I had tested Covid-19 positive. 

On 8 July I had very mild flu symptoms such as sneezing, and sore throat.

I informed my doctor, as I was in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy, and he prescribed some meds for a week which I took. The symptoms seemed to disappear with the meds, except I developed loss of taste and smell around 12 July.

I then took decision to test for Covid-19 at the hospital on 20 July, considering that I would have to test anyway for the birth of my baby which was planned to be natural delivery there.

Also read: Parents name newborn baby ‘Sanitiser’ to remind people about Covid-19 pandemic 

A positive result 

The results came back positive that same day I tested, although all symptoms had disappeared and I was back to normal.

I notified my doctor immediately, who advised that I mustn't worry too much, the only change if I am still positive at birth would be the delivery ward, but everything else will be the same.

On 28 July at around 8pm my contractions started and we rushed to the hospital as we were certain I was going into labour. I arrived at Emergency barely able to walk or talk but managed to state that I have labour contractions.

An emergency male nurse rushed me to the maternity ward in a wheel chair.

People like me

Upon arrival at the maternity ward, we were attended by security guard who demanded to see Covid-19 test results: she was shown the results then told us I can't come in, and that I must go to other wing/ section where 'people like me' should be.

There was no healthcare practitioner to process anything else at maternity, except my admission decision was now in the hands of a security guard.

When arriving at the 'isolation' ward, there was no one to attend to us.

The Emergency male nurse rang the bell until he had to bang the door to get the attention of the nurses who where having a good group chat. At that time my contractions were getting very severe, and close together.

Must read: Baby due any day now? Here's everything you need to know 

Nurses played God

An annoyed nurse opened the door and asked why are we making such a noise disturbing them, there were exchange of words between the maternity nurse and Emergency male nurse who was advocating for my admission and explaining the amount of pain I was in. 

I had done a pre-admission, opened a file under maternity ward and paid the R850 compulsory bed booking a month in advance.

However when I got to this ward, I was not identified, they demanded to see the midwife, which I didn't have as I had a gynaecologist.

I sat there in a wheelchair in pain while the nurses played God with the decision of whether to take me in or not.

The emergency male nurse stayed in my care as he could see that I was not getting any service from the nurses.

He was equally frustrated by his unprofessional  colleagues who wanted to reject their patient at a critical time.

Great resistance 

We asked the nurses to call my gynae, but they were not interested. Eventually I was given a bed, but with great resistance. 

Moments later I was then assigned a 'midwife' who took care of the process forward and ended up co-delivering my baby with my doctor, who arrived late in the process due to hospital staff not eager to call him.

Fast forward to discharge day on 30th, I got visited by both my gynae and paeditrician.

They both did check up on me and baby, I inquired what to expect from there on, my gynae advised and assured that I must get immunization and card for the baby.

Also see: Maternal and neonatal health at risk during pandemic 

Confusion and concern

I waited for someone to administer that, then I inquired with the paediatrician when she came for her rounds and check up, she advised I must go home as I am not going to get the baby card or immunization.

She said I must call the Sister and make arrangements after two weeks of quarantine.

I told her I am confused as I must leave hospital with baby card and baby immunized. She said I must take it up with the nurse.

I got discharged with an incomplete discharge form.

I called my gynae when I got home and shared the confusion and concern. He was equally confused and advised he did not know of such a thing happening in the hospital, but he will follow up.

Dehumanised, and unimportant

I was then called the following day by a lady who said she's the unit manager for the hospital group.

She advised that she and the hospital have taken a decision not to immunise or attend to Covid positive babies until out of quarantine period, as she could become infected and it would be unfair to other patients if she would be away.

I felt dehumanized, and unimportant, being given such an explanation.

She said I must call her after two weeks for an appointment and baby card.

I told her I am not happy about that and don't understand it, and I don't have two weeks to wait for my newborn to get his BCG and Polio vaccines.

Must see: Local dad shares heartbreaking story of premature birth during lockdown

'Well, vaccines are free' 

I reminded her that I had paid for this service in advance. She responded with "Well, these vaccines are free from the government", implying I shouldn't have a problem getting them for free elsewhere.

She said I could try other clinics, if they will take me, but she is not willing to administer any vaccines for my son due to my positive status until she feels comfortable after two weeks.

I then requested that she gives me my son's card so I can go elsewhere where they are willing to service me. She dropped the card with my gynae's reception for me or my husband to collect. 

My baby was discriminated against

Needless to say I was in disbelief that not only was I denied a service that I paid for in advance, but my newborn baby was denied his birth right to be immunised by the hospital where he was born - with no proof that he was Covid positive.

My baby was then discriminated against by the hospital sister, because of his mother's status. 

Also I found it strange and bizarre that all hospital staff were PPE to attend to risky cases, what makes this unit special to deny services based on status when she has PPE as precaution and protocol?

I hope the hospital will revisit their practices and rules that leave patients discriminated and dehumanised. 

I did raise my concerns to the hospital via online survey.

I am hoping by this story I can spare an expectant mom some disappointing treatment if the hospital can change its practices and preferences that have left some of us feeling disgruntled by the treatment received.

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