OPINION: Every woman has a right to be treated with dignity and respect according to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, Article 2. Nevertheless, this is somewhat wanting in many if not most of our healthcare facilities in Uganda and Africa at large.
We know that having access to good care from a skilled birth attendant can make a difference between a pregnant woman’s life and death. However, some women do not give birth with a skilled birth attendant and there is evidence that disrespect and abuse during facility based childbirth deters women from seeking help when they are in labor.
When mothers present at maternity wards with unbecoming labor pains, their wish at that particular moment is getting immediate assistance from the skilled birth attendant on duty like a midwife. However, most times, this is not the case especially in public healthcare facilities of Uganda where you find like one midwife is left to take care of more than five laboring mothers single-handedly. On the other hand, when mothers finally get a chance to be attended to, healthcare workers handle them in a disrespectful and non-dignified way.
Every mothers wish is to be examined privately and her information kept confidential by the healthcare worker, however, this is not adhered to especially in majority of the public healthcare facilities in Uganda. Some barriers have been found to be associated with this, and these include high number of patients, inadequate facility materials such as screens or curtains to provide privacy, inadequate knowledge among healthcare workers on the importance of privacy and many others.
These should not be the reasons for a mother to be treated with disrespect and abuse. Laboring mothers are usually emotionally stressed, psychologically disturbed and physically fatigued. Such women desire to be handled with love, care and patience by us the healthcare workers. This calls for empathy amongst all healthcare workers.
During nursing or midwifery or medical training, medical ethical principles are highly emphasized and should be applied too in practice by all healthcare workers.
These principles include; autonomy (patients’ right to make informed decisions about their own medical care), beneficence (doing good to others), non-maleficence (preventing harm from the patient), justice (being fair) and privacy and confidentiality.
As midwives and healthcare workers at large, when we serve better the mothers under our custody, we get that sense of satisfaction and usually the appreciation is portrayed all over our patients’ faces. Hence, let’s be good and do good for the best of those under our care. Client satisfaction is very key. Remember courtesy costs nothing.
The authors are; Musinguzi Mwesige Nelson; BSc trained midwife working with Masaka Regional Referral Hospital and Lilian Nuwabaine Luyima; BSc trained Nurse & MSN-Midwife & Women’s’ Health Specialist working with Aga Khan University as the Continuous Professional Development Coordinator