The tragic and unexpected death of Memory Beukes and her baby at the Katutura State Hospital last week Wednesday once again highlights the pitiable state of Namibia’s public health sector. Three babies and two mothers have died in questionable circumstances at the Windhoek Central and Katutura State hospitals over the past six weeks.
Twenty-three year old Memory Beukes’ and her baby died unexpectedly in the late hours of Tuesday 8 May as a consequence of a complicated delivery. The doctor on duty purportedly refused to perform a caesarian section, despite repeated requests from the attending nurses. Beukes arrived at the Katutura State Hospital at 13h00 complaining of birth pains, but was sent back home after consulting a doctor who informed her that she and her baby were doing fine. The expectant woman was advised to return to hospital within two hours for a follow up.
Upon her return, Beukes reported to family that her womb had already dilated by 5cm and shortly afterwards, at around 18h00, she went into labour. According to the family, nurses had by then requested the doctor (name known to Informanté) to carry out an emergency caesarian section; because of Beukes’ small stature the baby was deemed to be too big for a natural birth, but the doctor declined, claiming he does not have to operate on all pregnant women that come to the delivery room.
The doctor’s decision may have exacerbated a medical condition, called meconium ileus, whereby the unborn baby excretes faeces (Meconium) in the mother’s uterus, in most cases causing serious harm to themselves and the mother. Though Beukes’ baby was born alive, the infant had difficulties breathing, reportedly due to meconium and died shortly after birth.
Suffering from severe bleeding after the delivery, Beukes was rushed back to the operating theatre, where the doctor in question spent close to four hours operating on her. Those attempts however proved futile and Beukes was pronounced dead at 03h00 on the morning of 9 May. Memory’s sister, Magrieta Beukes told Informanté that she went to identify the body and was told that Memory died of natural causes, even though the police were not present to certify the cause of death.
Beukes’ family expected an explanation from the doctor who operated on her, but the doctor refused to talk to them.
When contacted for comment, Dr. Amagulu said hospital management is currently conducting a maternal investigation and referred to the acting medical superintendent, one Dr. Zulu. “I’m only acting and not in a position to discuss matters with the media. Contact the permanent secretary’s office for comment,” Dr Zulu advised.
The mother and child will be buried at Rehoboth on Friday 18 May 2012