Tuesday, November 29, 2011

re: the maternity ward.

i've been to the public hospital tons of times. visiting friends or dropping things off, i even run through the front door and out the back when i'm too lazy to walk around the block. i've been to a meeting or two and use the pharmacy because it's much cheaper than privately owned drugstores.

i don't visit people in the hospital. i feel like if you are sick, you need to rest, not entertain. and i'm not even big on visiting people after they give birth - unless they ask, or need help with lactation stuff. i like to wait until they're at home, comfortable and... more properly cleaned and presentable for visitors.

public health care here is kind of a joke. like many other public services, there are not enough funds, a little to no accountability to the people who manage what there is. doctors show up late, or not at all, spend little time with each patient and run on to their better paying job. nurses are paid minimum wage, and are not given the tools they need to perform their jobs.

even knowing all of this, even having experienced the public hospital, i was not prepared for the maternity ward. and on one hand i wish i had taken photos, and on the other i'm glad i didn't.

a friend of mine is a midwife working with midwives for the dominican republic and she brought onesies and sanitary pads for the new mamas in the hospital, so we headed over and talked our way in. normally, no one is allowed to accompany the women into the labor room, so it was a privilege to get in and see how it works.

picture taken from midwives for the dominican republic

we were thrown some disposable gowns and told we could walk around and talk to the women. good thing, because no one else seemed to be talking to them. the room was large, about 15 beds filled it up, each with a woman in some stage of labor - two beds were occupied by two women, since there was no space for them anywhere else. some of the beds had sheets, if the women brought them from home, most did not. a few of the women were naked from the waste down, with just a rolled up towel to give them privacy. there are no curtains to separate the beds. a doctor and his residents walked around, checking each woman. mostly, they didn't converse with the patient, and in one case the doctor did a tactile without even saying hello the mama-to-be.

one young girl cried and her belly contracted, with no one to hold her hand or give her words of encouragement. she had been admitted eventhough she was not really ready to be in the hospital. she might have lasted a day or two more without giving birth.

alone. in a hospital.

the babies are taken away after delivery and the women are shuttled to post-partum where they wait for... whatever one waits for in the post-partum room. again, these women are alone - not even with their babies for company.

no sheets, no hospital gown. no husband or mom to hold a hand.

the regular rooms were not much better, but here, company is allowed. four beds and a private bath in each room. babies and moms are reunited, but there are no cribs or incubator boxes for the newborns. they share the twin bed with mom and whoever else is with them - there are only seats if you bring them with you.

there are no free diapers, no blanket to wrap the baby in. no sheets on mama's bed or a pillow to use. no chairs for visitors. no sanitary pads or protection for the bed. no pain medication. for the haitian women, there is not even a nurse or doctor who speaks their language.

i spent an hour. it felt like a lifetime. i am thankful for this experience. for the opportunity to remember that not everyone lives like me, and that most are denied what should be basic rights of human beings.


simplicity said...

What a neat organization! I just went and liked it on FB so I can help support it as different opportunities arise. I can't imagine giving birth in that kind of set up.

SHALENA said...

Thank you simplicity, I am the woman that Melanie went to the hospital with and am one of the administrators of MIDWIVES FOR THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. We need all of the help that we can get, any size donation is appreciated. We have a list of needs on our Facebook page. Thank you so much! SHALENA