The mom who gave birth on a pavement
SHE cradles her newborn as she breastfeeds, a tender moment that should bring her contentment and pride.
Instead, Elina Maseko’s eyes are brimming with tears. She can’t stop thinking about how close she came to losing her baby when she gave birth in the street – outside the gates of a clinic in Pretoria.
Elina (47) also can’t forget how the nurses allegedly turned her away that Sunday night, even though she was in full labour.
“This incident hurt me so much,” Elina says as she looks down at her baby, Precious, named after Elina’s niece, Sibongile Precious Morudu (28), who helped deliver the baby.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Sibongile says, “but with God’s grace I managed.”
The nurses wouldn’t allow Elina into the clinic, she adds. Why? Because of her age, she alleges. “They started shouting, saying they wouldn’t help her because she was too high risk. They threw her clinic card at us and told us to go to Mamelodi Regional Hospital.”
As the women left, Elina’s water broke and she began screaming. Sibongile pleaded with the nurses but was told to go to the hospital.
“I helped my aunt sit down and then I saw the baby’s head. I took off my jacket to protect the baby from falling on the pavement or getting cold. I told her ‘push’.”
“Before I knew it the baby was out and no one came to assist us. I took the baby and folded my jacket around her.”
Elina didn’t expect any problems as she’d been going for regular checkups at the clinic in her area. She had four other children so pregnancy and childbirth wasn’t new to her.
On that night, she and Sibongile asked a neighbour to drive them to Mamelodi Regional Hospital, where she was scheduled to give birth. But on the way the car ran out of petrol.
The women took a taxi to the nearest clinic, Stanza Bopape II Clinic in Mamelodi East.
They arrived at 8pm and were allegedly told to go to Mamelodi Regional Hospital. The nurses gave no explanation, apart from saying she was high risk, Sibongile claims.
A pregnant woman is considered of “advanced maternal age” if she falls pregnant after 34. These pregnancies
are classified l ifi d as hi high h risk i kd due to t the th increased risk of premature birth, stillbirth, chromosomal defects in the baby and labour complications.
After the baby was born, Sibongile placed her on Elina’s chest, with the umbilical cord attached. She ran back inside the clinic with a security guard who had watched the birth. They told the nurses and only then were they allowed into the clinic.
However, the humiliation didn’t end there, the women claim. The nurses allegedly shouted at Sibongile, accusing her of endangering the lives of her aunt and the newborn.
“They said I could’ve given them an infection because I used my hands to hold the baby. But my fear was the baby would fall on the pavement and die. I had to do something.”
Mom and baby stayed overnight and were transferred to Mamelodi Regional Hospital the next day. They were discharged a few days later.
Thomas Rakhavha (50), Elina’s husband, is furious about what happened. “I didn’t expect this from the clinic. It’s a facility that’s supposed to help the community. Someone has to be held accountable for this,” says Thomas, who works as a bartender in Pretoria.
He is, however, happy with the new addition to their family. The couple’s four other children – Lettie (28), Peter (23), Josephine (19) and Angela (9), all dote on their little sister.
“The pregnancy was a surprise but we embraced b d it it. W We did didn’t ’t think such a hurtful delivery would happen.”
Sibongile and the Mamelodi Treatment Action Campaign ( TAC) reported the incident at the Mamelodi East police station.
Bobby Mohanoe, the chairperson of the Mamelodi TAC, says Elina’s alleged treatment is in contravention of the National Health Act and they want the nurses to be reported to the South African Nursing Council and fired.
“We plan to interact with the department of health to start an internal disciplinary hearing as soon as they have finalised their internal investigations. We will also ensure that the family receives counselling and we’ll keep on supporting the family until the matter is finalised.”
TAC has also reported the case to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) “for a human rights violation investigation and we’re looking at a civil litigation compensation claim”, Mohanoe says.
After visiting the clinic, Buang Jones, provincial manager of the SAHRC, said it was facing “many challenges”.
He said some nurses were burnt out and there’s no doctor at the facility. “The maternity ward only has eight beds. There’s no filing system. There are only two midwives and a student nurse. There is no administrative support and they have only one computer,” he said after his inspection.
The department of health assured the family investigations are under way.
District manager Mothomone Pitsi has apologised to the family. “This is not how we manage patients.
“Even if this mother was high risk, the expectation would have been for her to be examined properly and then an ambulance called to take her to a hospital,” Pitsi says.
He’s promised that a team of labour relations officials will investigate and report back within a month with a recommended course of action.
Until then, Elina is trying to come to terms with what happened to her. “I didn’t deserve that treatment,” she says. “No one does.”
‘I DIDN’T DESERVE THAT TREATMENT. NO ONE DOES’