A Mpumalanga woman is still reeling from the tragic loss of her newborn baby girl, who died while awaiting the arrival of an ambulance.
The incident, which has sparked widespread outrage in her community of Pienaar outside Mpumalanga’s capital city, took place at the KaMsogwaba Clinic, a vital healthcare facility serving the local community.
Speaking for the first time since the incident weeks ago, Nelisiwe Nkosi, told African Times that her trauma has made her question the Mpumalanga healthcare system.
Her memory of the episode raises major questions about the province’s rural emergency response system.
“It tears my heart apart that my daughter died in front of my eyes. I am honestly angry, and I feel the Mpumalanga Department of Health must pay for what happened. I believe that my baby would still be alive if the ambulance arrived on time,” she said.
The devastated mother said the ambulance delay was strange, considering KaMsogwaba Clinic was close to Rob Ferreira Hospital, where the infant was transferred.
According to Google Maps, Rob Ferreira Hospital and Msogwaba Clinic are 28.4km apart, a 40-minute drive.
Nkosi said the ambulance arrived more than five hours after provincial emergency services were notified at the clinic.
“I had just given birth to my daughter around 7 a.m. when the nurses told me that she was struggling to breathe because she had a heart problem. The clinic did not have oxygen suppliers for infants, but they managed to use the alternative oxygen meant for adults.
“Nurses tried to save my child while waiting for the ambulance to take the baby to Robs Ferreira Hospital. They continued using oxygen meant for adults to keep my daughter alive. The ambulance arrived at 1 p.m, but my daughter had already passed away two hours earlier,” she said.
When medical officials arrived, Nkosi said they pronounced her baby dead and told her they could do nothing more.
A source working at the clinic confirmed that the ambulance was late.
“Yes, it is true that the ambulance arrived six hours late. We are not saying the baby died because the ambulance had been delayed, but chances are that she might have survived,” said the source, who cannot be named for fear of victimization.
The incident also worries the baby’s father, Siyabonga Mabuza, who has threatened to sue the department over his daughter’s death.
“What makes me angry is the fact that I have been reading about incidents of this nature for a long time, but the department does not want to improve the service that they are offering to the patients,” said Mabuza, who is seeking legal advice. “I know that fighting the department won’t bring back my child, but it will assist in preventing similar incidents in the future.”
Provincial health department spokesperson Dumisani Malamule confirmed the infant’s death but disputed the details.
“The department is aware of the death of an infant at the facility. It is incorrect that there was no oxygen at the facility. The infant was given oxygen continuously on the day of the incident,” he said.
Malamule said their preliminary investigation revealed that the ambulance did not arrive six hours later as reported, “However, the department is investigating the matter to understand what happened on that day.”
Malamule also refuted reports that the province has a dire shortage of ambulances.
He said 39 emergency vehicles were unveiled in June this year, but mechanical concerns prevented the entire fleet from being available at all times.
It is not the first time the department has been accused of mistreating new mothers.
Veronica Zwane, 29, from Belfast, near Kruger National Park, gave birth without assistance at Matikwana Hospital outside Hazyview in November 2021.
Zwane reported the matter to the department, especially after the nurses forced her to clean the bed she used during labour.
One of the nighttime nurses was found guilty but just ordered not to “do it again.”
At the time, Malamule confirmed that the nurse was given a written warning and not suspended.