On March 12th 2016, in Douala the economic hub of Cameroon, Monique a pregnant woman of about 31, expecting twins was rushed to the maternity ward of the reference hospital, Laquintinie. The chain of events which followed after their arrival at the hospital sent shock waves, anger and confusion throughout the Cameroonian community at home and abroad, making them take to the streets, to their key boards, on social media in protest.
There are different versions to this unfortunate incident, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact truth of what actually happened. However, in the loopholes surrounding all these versions, one thing has been consistent: That a pregnant woman of about 31 expecting twins was brought to this said hospital, that the said hospital didn’t take time to examine her after pronouncing her dead, telling them to take her to the mortuary. It was further said the mortuary attendant told them he noticed movements in her womb, the trained medics refused to operate on the woman and in desperation, the untrained female relative decided to go to a nearby kiosk and buy a razor blade which she used to perform an unethical C/section on the woman. The blood that came out of the supposed corpse and the undignified way in which the corpse was left on the mortuary floor, the seeming indifference of the medics and the watching population is what provoked the uproar that has been raging within the Cameroonian community at home and abroad at what has been termed a horrific disregard for human lives.
News outlets have been on this story with their own versions of course, bloggers and their keyboards have been busy. Ordinary citizens have been protesting on the streets and on social media. Like I said, I don’t know which is true in the numerous versions that have sprung up since that fateful day from this incident. That is not my focus here. I do however, know one thing: A pregnant woman and her twins are said to have died in a busy town, within the walls of a reference hospital in what I consider a gross disregard for the lives of a woman, a noticeable and very telling absence of humane feeling from some in a community that has sworn to care and protect human life above all others. Here in lies my focus.
Women are the nurturers of every society, the people who hold the keys and locks to the continuation of life of every society. To treat a pregnant woman like this, a woman who could as well have been your mother, sister, daughter, friend etc calls for concern. The unfortunate thing is this is not an isolated case. It happens too frequently in this hospital and other reference hospitals in the country. Many examples abound.
Last year, a woman died after giving birth through C/Section in this hospital. In 2012, another woman died through the same procedure. In November 2015, I almost lost my life when I was rushed in with intense body pains due to this same negligent attitude of some medical staffs and I dare say, that could have been attributed to my health situation as a sickle cell patient. And of course, the numerous unknown cases I was not privy to, of women who die daily in child birth. This and the case of Monique bring forcefully to the fore the broken state of our state hospitals and the undeniable fact that maternal and child health care in Cameroon is in a very sad state. The fact that a woman, as some doctors argued in line with this case, could die from uterine rupture in 2016 calls for a lot of concern.
The policies in place make it difficult for poor people to have access to good health care and the conditions in which some of the doctors and health care personnel work in leaves much to be desired. Nevertheless, the system failed Monique and her twins. These breakneck policies are what push some women to attempt home delivery when they are pregnant. Yet, when they decide to make it to the hospital, the medics are obliged to act first and ask questions later. Human lives are involved. The system failed Monique; the medical community she looked up to failed her. Those who stood by and watched as her body was mutilated by an untrained person and did nothing failed her.
And thus our cries went this time right up to the heavens. We are tired of being killed by the people who are supposed to help us live. We are tired of being told to come carry our people for burial over issues that could have been preventable. We are tired of losing future generations before they had a chance to take their first breath out of their comfortable cocoons of their mothers’ wombs. We are tired of the negligence of some of the medical teams in our hospitals. We are tired of being guinea pigs in the hands of some amateur health workers who by their actions mock their profession and the sacrifices of their dedicated colleagues. We are tired of seeing our hospitals as death traps instead of lifesavers. We are tired of seeing our pregnant sisters in trepidation and fear. We are TIRED!
Something needs to be done and urgently too. We need a more people oriented policy in our hospitals which benefit both patients and the medical team. We need more committed and dedicated medical personnel. The death of Monique and her twins has exposed on an unprecedented scale, the sad state of maternal and child health care in Cameroon and by extension, the deplorable situation of our health care system. Access to good health by the WHO charter, is a basic human right and as such, everyone deserves good health. Maternal health care is of utmost importance and as we seek for answers from this unfortunate incident, to prevent many more Moniques and their twins dying in future, it could be good if, as a first step in dealing with this situation, maternal and child health care is made free.