Cabinet committee to play major role in maternal deaths probe

In the wake of several maternal deaths recently, government has mandated the Cabinet sub-committee on health to play a meaningful role in the investigations into such deaths.

Instead of the buck stopping with the Ministry of Health, the sub-committee will now have a major role in the ministry’s accountability as it relates to maternal deaths as opposed to being a “mere passive recipient of mail”, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon has said.

“In essence… the closed sectoral consideration of maternal deaths has been dissolved and Cabinet sub-committee on health now has a defined role in the whole process,” Luncheon, who is also the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, told media operatives last week.

Luncheon said he has since met the Chief Medical Officer and the head of the Maternal and Child Health Department to ensure that “this new role of the cabinet sub-committee on health is properly integrated into the protocol that exists in the sector.”

Asked about the meeting the sub-committee had with regional and national health officials two weeks ago, following the deaths of two women at the Skeldon Hospital, Luncheon said the meeting “failed to deliver because the necessary reports on which some substantial evaluation would have been based were not forth coming at that time.”

The HPS said that the reports are “slowly” being made available but “in the context of a national protocol those reports ought to have been available within a stipulated time frame after each maternal death and that was not so.” He said while explanations were offered none changed the reality that the reports were not available.

“It didn’t take long for Cabinet to realize that if reports are not available then essentially decision making would have to be negatively affected, because these reports on each and every instance of maternal death were not available and not at hand for decision makers.”

Further, Luncheon said he has a “strong sentiment” that it would take time to get all of the players who have a role in completing the reports and submitting same.

The Cabinet Secretary said there is a “complex” system when it comes to reporting on maternal deaths as it starts with the hospitals then to the regional authorities, the ministry and then to the select team that does the review.

“Anyway along that path much mischief lies afoot. So I think the effort that has been made in drumming into the minds and the brains of the officials at the Ministry of Health that we are serious, ought to provide us with the report when it is required,” he said.

According to Luncheon, last Tuesday Cabinet reviewed the “most recent developments” in maternal deaths and remained “critical of the efforts of the health sector in responding to its concerns.

“Cabinet reiterated its focus on the following areas; the evidence of compliance with the rules and the procedures of the maternal mortality review, that is the rule based system that investigates each and every maternal death. Second concern dealt with indiscipline and negligence professional or other  wise, the third one is the improving the reporting relationship from the periphery to the centre who is responsible time frame.”

The most recent maternal death was that of a nurse Charlene Amsterdam, who died two days after giving birth via c-section at the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH).

Two weeks ago, Cabinet had ordered that officials connected to the Skeldon Hospi-tal where Esther Dwarka-Bowlin, the acting Headmis-tress of the Princetown Nur-sery School in Corriverton, died after giving birth to her third child, appear before a special Cabinet sub-committee in an effort to seek answers about the death.

Another woman, 21-year-old Yogeeta Bishram of Number 60 Village, Corentyne died at the New Amsterdam Hospital (NAH) two Wednesdays ago, after delivering her second child; a healthy baby girl at the Skeldon Hospital.

She was admitted to the Skeldon Hospital around 9 o’clock on the night before she died and her husband, Chandradat Gobin told Stabroek News that when he left everything was fine with her. The family expressed shock at the woman’s demise.

There have been other maternity-related deaths in the Ancient County over the past several months. Rebekha Chinamootoo, 26, of Number 36 Village, Corentyne died in September after giving birth to a healthy baby boy by c-section at the NAH.

Nadira Sammy, 16, of Number 69 Village who was diagnosed with high blood pressure lost her life at the NA Hospital before giving birth. And the GPH had said in September that an investigation had been launched in the circumstances surrounding the death of Aseelah Haqq, 33, of Middle Walk, Buxton, East Coast Demerara who died early in September while she was attached to a life support machine hours after delivering her child.

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