Relief for pregnant women walking 40km to nearest hospital for maternity care

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By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent

EXPECTANT mothers in the Gweshe area of Mhondoro-Ngezi were walking for more than 40 kilometres to the nearest health centre at St Michael’s Mission Hospital to get pre and post-natal care.

The long and arduous journeys by pregnant women are set to be a thing of the past following the recent commissioning of Gweshe Clinic, which now boasts a maternity ward and waiting shelter.

The facility is envisaged to provide holistic care to both mother and baby, which is critical in reducing mother and child mortality rates.

Established in 2019 by the Mhondoro-Ngezi Rural District Council (MNRDC) to serve at least 11 200 villagers, the facility had insufficient infrastructure which saw mothers only being admitted for a day instead of the recommended three days as the clinic only had just four post-natal beds.

In some instances, infant deaths were inevitable due to a lack of post-natal care as the delivery room was poorly equipped and could not adequately meet emergency cases.

As a result of these constraints, most patients preferred seeking treatment at St Michael’s Mission Hospital or Kadoma District Hospital, while it was not uncommon for expecting mothers to give birth at home thereby putting their lives, and that of their babies, at risk.

Last week, Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Marian Chombo, who was representing Health and Child Care Minister Douglas Mombeshora, handed over to MNRDC an upgraded facility which includes a maternity ward, a waiting mothers’ shelter, staff accommodation for two families, and a cooking area funded by Zimbabwe Platinum Mines (Zimplats).

The maternity ward and mothers’ waiting home are fitted with beds draped in linen.

Speaking at the official handover ceremony, Chombo commended Zimplats for embarking on initiatives aimed at improving the quality of healthcare in communities within its footprint.

“What makes me proud about the work they’re doing in their communities is that they’re targeting social performance programmes, which are among catalysts for the country’s development namely community wellness, education and skills development; infrastructure development and enterprise development,” she said.

“Although Zimbabwe has recorded notable reductions in maternal mortality (462 per 100 000 live births) and under-five mortality rate, a lot still needs to be done to improve on stagnant neonatal mortality rates, low exclusive breastfeeding rates, and recurring outbreaks of cholera.

“Neonatal mortality (29 per 1000 live births) has remained stagnant while the country also has low exclusive breastfeeding rates (41%). Recurrent and persistent outbreaks of cholera with a case fatality of 2.8% is also another challenge,” said Chombo.

Before its refurbishment, Gweshe Clinic was recording an average of 25 deliveries per month, but will now have an increased delivery capacity of 50 births per month.

“The need for a mothers’ shelter could not be over-emphasised. During the rainy season, like now, home deliveries would increase due to flooded rivers as some expecting mothers would find it difficult to reach healthcare centres with obstetric facilities.

“Construction of a waiting mothers’ shelter has meant that the clinic is now able to provide accommodation, especially for the high-risk women, during their final weeks or days of pregnancy,” said the minister.

She added that Zimplats was helping in realising the goals of the National Health Strategy 2021-2025, which outlines the roadmap towards turning around and restoring stability in the country’s health system.

Miriam Mugoni, who is eight months pregnant, expressed relief at having to access maternity care closer to home.

“I was stressing at the possibility of having to travel to St Michael’s or worse still to Harare to give birth. Now that the clinic is fully equipped, l hear that all maternity issues will be dealt with locally. It’s such a huge relief saving on transport costs,” said Mugoni.

Chief Benhura, born Marks Matonga, paid gratitude to Zimplats for bringing healthcare closer to villagers who were walking long distances to access services in the absence of a reliable public transport system.

“Pregnant women were facing a very difficult time walking 40km to St Michael’s to give birth. But with the upgrading of Gweshe Clinic by Zimplats, we are happy that our expectant mothers will get health services at their doorsteps,” said the traditional leader.

Zimplats managing director, Stanley Segula reiterated the platinum group metals miner takes pride in interventions that improve the quality of healthcare in the country, and bring it closer to achieving universal health coverage, and equity and reducing maternal and newborn deaths.

“Through this project, we have enhanced healthcare services for communities around the clinic, increased the clinic’s capacity to serve the community, and improved the overall healthcare experience for both patients and medical staff,” said Segula.

Over the years, Zimplats, a member of Impala Platinum Holdings, has between 2019 to date injected over US$3,7 million to expand infrastructure and procure equipment at several healthcare institutions such as Mhondoro Rural Hospital, Kadoma District Hospital, Chegutu District Hospital, Selous Clinic, St Michael’s Mission Hospital, and Turf Clinic.