Expecting mothers can no longer access maternity services at Glen View and Budiriro polyclinics of Harare City Council, and have to travel a lot further to find clinics where they can get the prenatal checks, advice and then give birth.
Harare City Council acting spokesperson Mr Innocent Ruwende attributed the lack of maternal health services to the shortage of nurses at council clinics, with only half of the maternity nurses’ posts filled and Covid-19 keeping a large block of staff at home.
Expecting women alleged that Glen View Polyclinic was no longer registering pregnant women for maternal health services while health workers at Budiriro Polyclinic were instructing them to register on the day of delivery.
“I wanted to register for maternity but I was told by the sister-in-charge that Glen View poly clinic is no longer offering maternal health care services and that I should go somewhere but now am stuck,” said a pregnant woman who requested anonymity.
At Budiriro poly clinic the situation was worse as health workers were not treating pregnancy as an emergency.
“My delivery dates were in December but the nurses told me to come on the day of delivery with the registration money,” said another woman.
Mr Ruwende said Covid-19 has heavily affected council health services and at one-point the entire staff of Warren Park poly clinic were infected.
“Most of our staff was affected by Covid-19 and could not report to work since they were in isolation. As you are aware this is a specialised area and not every nurse can perform those duties. We are also struggling in numbers because our nurses are leaving for greener pastures,” he said.
Mr Ruwende said midwife capacity was at 50 percent and some were in isolation so they need partner support in hiring lo-cum midwives.
He said Budiriro poly clinic has managed to book 151 mothers for their first ante-natal clinic visit for December and they are doing initial ante bookings on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Glen View poly clinic is doing ante-natal clinic bookings on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Wednesdays they do subsequent visits and on Fridays they do six weeks’ postnatal examinations. For the month of December, a total of 170 mothers were booked.
At most day duty is being manned by one midwife and the sister because of staff constraints. As a result, it might be that not all mothers who present for ante-natal bookings are taken on the particular day hence the complaints,” Mr Ruwende said.
The denial of access to maternal health services came at a time when council unilaterally resolved to close nine clinics in the city citing health personnel shortages.