Death of newborn baby sparks angry debate

Thursday April 20, 2017 Written by Published in Regional

FIJI – The Fiji Labour Party says the recent death of a newborn baby at the Lautoka Hospital questions the state of Fiji’s health care facilities.


FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry said while authorities were investigating the death, there were questions on the frequency of such reports coming out of hospitals and clinics.

“Almost every day we hear of negligence at our hospitals, of people losing lives as a result of wrong diagnosis, chronic shortage of not only lifesaving drugs but also basic medicines, hospital supplies and of course experienced medical personnel,” he said.

The infant’s death gained nationwide attention after a Facebook video showed hospital staff screaming at the child’s father, Mithun Permal, and what appeared to be a member of his family.

“The provision of efficient, competent and adequately equipped health care services is one of the basic responsibilities of a caring government,” Chaudhry said.

Speaking at a press conference to clarify issues surrounding the infant’s death, permanent secretary for the Ministry Health and Medical Services, Philip Davies, said the child was stillborn and added that Fiji’s record for stillbirths was below global estimations.

“We believe the services that are offered are good. If you look at the area of stillbirths we are doing two-thirds of the global rate and I think that’s testament to how well our services do perform,” he said.

“Globally, it is estimated that around 1.5 per cent of pregnancies result in a stillbirth.

“That means there may be more than 7000 stillbirths every day across the world although rates have reduced by about one fifth during the present century. Sadly, stillbirths are often unpredictable and unavoidable.

“Looking at data for Fiji, we know that around one in every 100 pregnancies in Fiji results in a stillbirth.

“That compares extremely well with the global rate – one per cent in Fiji compared with 1.5 per cent across the world – and is a clear indication of how well our doctors and nurses work to protect the health of women and babies during their pregnancy and birth.

“We should all acknowledge and be grateful for their achievements.”

In the case of the death of the baby last week, Davies said there were key facts that needed to be considered.

“First, due to factors in her previous medical history, Vishalini Lata’s pregnancy was considered to be high risk and was being managed as such by her doctors.

“Initial enquiries suggest Ms Lata may not have consistently followed medical advice during her pregnancy and labour. In particular, initial reports suggest that she had signed out against medical advice from Nadi Hospital on two previous occasions during her pregnancy.”

 Davies also said when the mother was seen on Monday, April 10, she was advised that she could expect to go into labour at any time and should go to the hospital.

“We understand that Ms Lata’s labour did, in fact, start at 9.00am on Tuesday, April 11.

“This was not her first pregnancy so she should have recognised what was happening, but she chose not to present herself at Lautoka Hospital until 7.00pm on that day, some 10 hours after starting labour.

“That was contrary to the advice she had been given and it meant that her baby’s condition could not be monitored during her labour.

“Had she been labouring in a hospital, the fetal heart monitor may have given signs that baby was in trouble earlier and perhaps a timely caesarean section could have changed things.

“But as she chose to present at the time she did, there is nothing that could be done.”

Davies also said the ministry did not condone any unprofessional behaviour by their staff and anyone found to have behaved inappropriately may be subjected to counselling or other disciplinary measures.

“It should be recognised that staff members were themselves upset by Ms Lata’s stillbirth and were still dealing with her and a number of other patients at the time they were filmed. Nevertheless, they will be reminded of the need to remain calm and polite when dealing with patients and the public, whatever the circumstances.”

He said Lautoka Hospital confirmed doctors would continue to counsel the father, his wife and immediate family.

However, the woman whose baby’s death was the subject of the social media frenzy has called on the Health Ministry to stop making  what she claims to be false statements in the media.

Vishalini Lata contacted the Fiji Times after reading articles where the Health and Medical Services Ministry was quoted as saying that it was in contact with the family and had counselled them.

“How can they say that when no one has been in contact with me or my husband,” she claimed.

“They have made no effort to counsel us or at least take down a report about what had happened.

“I am very disappointed that they have put out a public statement which they know is not true.”

When asked about a statement issued by Health Ministry permanent secretary Philip Davies which said she was considered “high risk” and may not have consistently followed medical advice during her pregnancy and labour,  Lata acknowledged she did sign out of the Nadi Hospital on two occasions earlier in her pregnancy and it was not for the reasons suggested by Davies.

“I was about three and four months pregnant and was having stomach pains and they kept giving me painkillers instead of informing me about what was happening to my baby or what the risks were. So when no explanation was given I said, ‘no more medication’, and signed myself out,” she said.

 Lata claimed she began attending clinics at the Lautoka Hospital after that because nurses at Nadi said her file had been transferred there.

On the Monday, she began experiencing stomach pains and travelled from her Nawaicoba, Nadi, home to the maternity unit in Lautoka.

“When I got there, the nurse checked me and said everything was fine and baby was fine and she said not to worry and gave me April 18 as the expected delivery date.

“When I got home the pains did not go down. The next afternoon, on Tuesday, I called my husband to take me to the Lautoka Hospital again and when we got there, I asked if I could have a caesarean section but the midwives insisted that I could have a natural birth,” she claimed.

“When I finally gave birth a few minutes later, they put my baby on my stomach and she gripped my finger, I know she was alive when I last saw her.

“And then they came and took her from me. About one hour after that, a doctor came and said that my daughter had died,” she claimed.

“They can’t make statements saying my baby was stillborn, she was alive when I delivered but what happened afterwards, only they have the answers to that.”

Lata’s husband, Mithun Permal, said his wife was recovering from the delivery but the trauma of their baby’s death baby’s death and the events that transpired post-delivery was taking its toll on her mentally.

            - PNC sources


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