This foundation is in memory of our very healthy baby Nyilale Vaah Junior (Alias VJ) who was delivered fresh still born due to lack of adequate monitoring and midwifery care during his birth at one of Ghana’s private health centers. Never again should such tragedy and unnecessary loss of life happen to any other family in this country. The death of our beloved son has led to this crusade to fight the cancer of negligence and poor attitude in health care provision in Ghana.
On March 9, 2010, what should have been a happy ending to our nine month journey together ended in a preventable tragedy, the result of professional incompetence and negligence, at one of the best private hospitals in Ghana.
Mine had been a very normal pregnancy. Following a referral by a very trusted family friend who is also a doctor in August 2009, we started seeing Dr Srofenyo, a gynecologist/obstetrician at the Valumed Clinic in the Accra Mall complex in Accra on August 17, 2009. The scan showed a very healthy fetus, with a heartbeat that would make any couple ecstatic. So were we. Our two little girls, Lois and Nana Alluah Vaah were with us, and they fell in love with their brother right away. Subsequent monthly visits continued to confirm a healthy growing fetus, and our joy was climaxed with the announcement by Dr Srofenyo on our fourth visit on October 31, 2009 that we had a baby boy. This was going to be the icing on the cake, and the perfect addition to our three wonderful girls, Angela, Lois and Nana.
On Saturday January 23, 2010, I transferred to Lister Medical Services on the advice of my doctor, Dr Srofenyo, as Valumed was only an OPD and my doctor is a consultant at that hospital. My experience on the first day should have been a red flag to warn me of things to come. In spite of a 10am appointment, I eventually ended up seeing Dr Srofenyo at 1.30pm, due to the fact that he had to be at the theatre. Given that emergencies do happen, and they should for sure take precedence over routine visits, I accepted their explanation and thought nothing of the fact that this could be because this facility, in spite of its name and stature, did not have enough specialists to meet the need of its growing clientele. I experienced similar delays on subsequent visits on February 12, February 26 and March 5, 2010. It was during my visit on March 5 (my EDD was set for Sunday, March 14) that Dr Srofenyo explained the process with respect to delivery. According to him, there was always another specialist on duty in addition to the head of the facility, Dr Hiadze, who is himself a very experienced gynecologist. Should I happen to be in labour at the time he (Dr Srofenyo) wasn’t on duty, I would be taken care of by the midwives on duty and the consultant on duty if need be. However, he was going to be only a phone call away should it be necessary, with the exception of March 12 to March 17 when he would be travelling out of the country.
At 10pm on Monday, March 8, 2010, my membranes ruptured. I woke my husband and within fifty minutes, we were at the hospital (Lister Medical Services). I was admitted to one of the labour wards, right opposite the reception desk at the labour ward. The nurse on duty, Audrey, came by and carried out a vaginal exam. She also started the CTG and informed us that although the membrane is ruptured, the baby’s head was high and so she needed to do the CTG to monitor the heartbeat and the strength of my contractions. My husband called our doctor friend, Dr Atupra to inform him of the situation and the fact that we were at the hospital and could not reach Dr Srofenyo. Dr Atupra asked to speak with Audrey the nurse which he did. Audrey, after telling us the head of the baby was high, went and called the doctor on duty, a general practitioner named Dr Boye. Dr Boye checked my stomach with his hands and indicated that the baby was in the oblique position and that in this case, the contractions couldn’t be allowed to continue as I wouldn’t be able to give birth to him through the vagina in the position in which he was. He suggested giving me medicine to stop/reduce the contractions and antibiotic to prevent any infections given that most of the water on the baby had been lost. Dr Atupra again spoke with Dr Boye. I asked Dr Boye why he doesn’t inform Dr Hiadze, the specialist who happened to live close by to come in and possibly perform a C-Section if need be rather than wait until the bay got distressed before he would be called. Dr Boye insisted that this was the routine procedure for a situation like mine, and what he proposed would enable us wait till Dr Hiadze’s normal rounds the next day. The medications were administered and a drip put on me while the CTG continued. The baby’s heartbeat continued to be in the normal range and the strength of the contractions gradually reduced. In the meantime, we had already made about eight phone calls to Dr Srofenyo without success.
At around 7.30am the next morning, Dr Boye came in with one Dr Larry Koomson, another general practitioner and handed me over to him. Dr Koomson only asked how I felt and left with Dr Boye, promising to be back. Another CTG was done at around 8am when the morning shift nurse took over and it continued to show a steady heartbeat for my baby. The contractions continued to show a reduction, with occasional high rates. It was at 10am on Tuesday, March 10, eleven hours after we reported, that Dr Hiadze, the specialist showed up with Dr Koomson in tow. Dr Hiadze did a vaginal exam and indicated that the baby was now in the cephalic position and could be delivered normally, especially given that I had had three normal deliveries and this baby was small in size. He asked the nurses to induce labour and the drip with the said medication was put on me from around 11.25am. Dr Hiadze left, indicating he would be back later on. Two nurses came in, introduced themselves and left. I started feeling the contractions pick up again within thirty minutes of the start of the medication. Dr Hiadze returned at 2pm to ask how the contractions were and I said they had been going on for about an hour and a half, and were 5 minutes apart. Without checking any further, he indicated he would be back in an hour, asked that I lie on my side and a pillow used to support my stomach on the side. After this he left, and only returned about two hours later. No specific nurse was instructed to be in charge of monitoring my progress. In the meantime, at around 2.30pm, still lying on the side as he had asked me to, and sweating profusely even when the temperature was 20 degrees, I felt the urge to push very strongly and could be heard screaming. My husband went to the desk and informed the nurses that I was in great pain and that he thought the baby was coming. A nurse came by and asked whether I felt like easing myself, to which I replied “yes”. All she said was “it means the medicine is now working,” took away the tray in which I had been served breakfast and left without as much as checking the extent of my dilation or any such thing. My husband went to call them a second time and he was told “It’s not due yet”. By 3.15pm when my husband went to call a third time and a nurse finally came in to check what was happening and had me in the right position, my baby had already dropped on the bed in the labour ward where I had been admitted, breathless. For about four minutes the nurse and one other who had joined her run helter skelter, not seeming to know what to do. My husband, who had been with me since we came in at 10pm Monday night and I, kept asking why the baby wasn’t crying or breathing and he wasn’t being attended to. Subsequently, one nurse came in, cut the umbilical cord and took the baby away, while another one cleaned me up and worked on getting the placenta out.
It was around 4.40pm that Dr Hiadze, Koomson and some of the nurses came in, only to inform us that our baby’s situation was bad and that the resuscitation efforts were not yielding the desired results and went away again. My husband followed up and returned at around 5.20pm in tears, and Dr Hiadze trying his best to tell us what we already knew.
No couple should have to go through what we’ve just been through, especially when an otherwise healthy baby has to die because the people we entrust our healthcare to, and for which we are ready to pay hefty sums of money show such level of incompetence and negligence. Our Nyilale Vaah Junior died, so that the many such cases which go unpublished and unheard of, would be heard. We demand the best level of care from our health service providers, and ask that those who are not called to do this duty stay out of the field for ever.