Family wants answers after the death of mother and unborn baby

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The family of a woman who died with her unborn baby at the Walvis Bay State Hospital in September is demanding answers from the Health Professions Council of Namibia, reports The Namibian.

Phenny Ethingo was eight months pregnant when she was admitted to the hospital on 29 September after complaining of abdominal pain. Later that day, Ethingo was informed that her unborn baby had died.

Fiina Haikali, an elder sister, believes Ethingo could still have been alive today had it not been for the alleged carelessness of medical staff. Haikali claims that although her sister was admitted in the morning, she was dumped in the maternity ward and received no medication, and there was also no mention of what the hospital would do with the dead child inside her.

“She just lay there, waiting for a doctor to attend to her. She stayed overnight, but got no treatment,” Haikali explained. “She was in shock after hearing that her unborn child had died. They should have just operated on her.”

The report says the next morning, Ethingo complained of blurry vision, nausea and dizziness. A matron allegedly came to examine her file, and said a doctor would see her later. According to Haikali, the matron said Ethingo could not undergo an operation because she had high blood pressure. Eventually, just before noon, a female doctor came to see Ethingo. Haikali was asked to wait outside while the doctor examined her.

“After examination, the doctor walked past me. I followed her, requesting information about my sister’s condition. She abruptly answered that she is not going to talk to me, despite the fact that it is my biological sister, and that I should ask my sister for information. She did not want to explain what the problem was,” Haikali continued.

Ethingo told her sister then that she could not understand the doctor as she examined her. The medical file at the end of the bed did not reveal much too, and Haikali said the information was illegible. Haikali added that Ethingo was still without medication, and she continued to complain of blurry vision and dizziness.

That evening, the report says, Ethingo was put on a drip, but her vision was still blurry, and she felt dizzy. On the 29th, Ethingo was transferred to the delivery room, from which the family was barred.

“I could hear her struggling to breathe. Her condition deteriorated. Only after an hour was I allowed in to see her. Her breathing was not normal, and she was not able to open her eyes nor to speak. She could not move, and she was not aware of us. She was in a coma,” Haikali recalled.

The doctor allegedly came regularly to see Ethingo. Haikali was, however, puzzled by the doctor’s comments. “She (the doctor) told me around 11h00 that my sister’s sugar was high, but her condition was stable, and that she needed to be transferred to Windhoek.

However, at the same time, she said my sister might not make it to Swakopmund,” said Haikali, which caused grave concern. She quickly went home to get personal belongings for her sister. But when she returned to the hospital, she waited about four hours before a group of doctors examined Ethingo.

“They took long, but still did not say anything to the family. There still was no oxygen, not even when her employer requested them to get oxygen from Swakopmund,” said Haikali.

While waiting for long, the doctor allegedly said she wanted to escort Ethingo herself in the state ambulance to the Katutura State Hospital, but plans changed after Ethingo’s employer arranged for her to be flown in a private plane to see a private doctor in Windhoek.

“Everything was organised, but when I went to see her, she opened her eyes, and indicated that she was feeling cold. She could not speak. The paramedics came to take her, but while they were assessing her, she died,” Haikali stated sadly.

According to the report, Department of Health spokesperson Manga Libita said the ministry was not aware of the incident, and that they were waiting for the hospital to submit a report to them.

Ethingo’s death certificate states that she died of hyperosmolan (a diabetic complication), septicaemia (blood poisoning) and renal (kidney) failure.

The report says that the HPCN has received the complaint from Haikali, and is in the process of evaluating whether it requires further action. This could, however, not be confirmed.

The Namibian report

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