Act now for safe and respectful childbirth! World patient safety day 2021

The Kingdom of Eswatini joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Patient Safety Day 2021. The country has been commemorating this day every year since its inception in 2019. The country embraces the principle that in delivering patient care, the first step is “do no harm”.

In line with the theme for 2021, the commemorations focused on “Safe maternal and newborn care” urging all stakeholders to “Act now for safe and respectful childbirth!”.

In Eswatini approximately 30 women die every year from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In addition, around 500 stillborn and newborn deaths are reported every year. Most maternal and newborn deaths as well as stillbirth is avoidable through the provision of safe and quality care by skilled health professionals working in supportive environments.

Eswatini is among the countries adopting integrated approaches to service delivery built around the needs of patients. In this regard, the Ministry of Health developed the first-ever antenatal care (ANC) guidelines which emphasise the provision of integrated safe respectful care.

Dr Charity Newton, a Paediatrician at the Mbabane Government Hospital says mothers should prepare prior to pregnancy and supplement so that when they conceive the baby, the environment is conducive enough for the baby to grow.

A woman is encouraged to attend antenatal care (ANC) as soon as she discovers that she is pregnant. ANC is the period where the pregnancy is investigated and monitored by the health practitioner to pick up any risk factors which can compromise the outcome of the pregnancy and can lead to the death of either the mother or the baby.

Dr Kabulu Kadingi, a Gynaecologist at the Mbabane Government Hospital says once the risk factors are picked, a special schedule is provided to the patient and monitored according to the risk factor. Risk factors may include diabetes mellitus, hypertension and HIV infection. 

In Eswatini pregnant mothers are encouraged to deliver at a health facility. At the health facility, the health worker can monitor any abnormal progress of the labour and act accordingly. Mothers receive skilled birth attendance during the delivery and have a positive experience of birth. To ensure safety from infections, mothers are admitted to a clean bed with clean and sterilized linen. Midwives at a health facility ensure that there is minimal tearing during delivery to avoid excessive blood loss. If tearing occurs sterile instruments are used to repair it so that the mother does not get sepsis.

During the pandemic, some people have avoided seeking care in health facilities, for fear of catching COVID-19 or other infectious diseases. Sister Jane Shongwe, a midwife at the Mbabane Government Hospital highlighted that all pregnant women coming for delivery are screened for COVID 19 on admission.  Those that have symptoms are tested and if positive they are isolated in separate wards. Having a positive COVID 19 test does not compromise the care given. However, all necessary precautions are taken to protect the mother, the baby and the health workers.

The World Health Organization in Eswatini is working with the government toward safe and respectful childbirth. To make this happen the country is being supported to implement the WHO Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021–2030. The patients are engaged as partners in the provision of quality care achieving tangible progress towards Universal Health Coverage.

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