Expectant mothers at the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital who are infected with Covid-19 are being left to face the virus openly in the facility’s common isolation wing.
This has attracted the attention of maternal health experts who have pleaded with the government to consider setting up a Covid-19 maternity wing to provide isolation room for pregnant women who contract the virus.
“We do not have a special wing for handling pregnant mothers who test positive,” said a senior hospital employee who requested anonymity.
“They are placed in ordinary isolation for examination, treatment and deliveries.”
Last month, several doctors at the maternity wing tested positive for Covid-19. At least 50 to 60 deliveries are recorded at the maternity unit every day, according to data from the hospital.
Covid 19 Time Series
Kenya Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society Secretary-General Kireki Omanwa said a Covid-19 maternity wing will offer safe deliveries to women and take care of newborns.
Omanwa, who is also a lecturer at the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Nairobi, said only Mombasa County has a fully-equipped Covid-19 maternity wing.
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The maternity wing with a bed capacity of 80, which is situated at the Coast General Hospital, was set up by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho at the onset of the pandemic.
Omanwa regretted that in most counties, pregnant women suspected to have been infected with the virus are placed in the same room with other corona patients.
Placing the women in the same room with other infected patients, he said, risks infecting the newborns.
“Special maternity units are required to offer care for women because their immunity at birth is weakened,” said the specialist.
Heath records reveal that the Covid-19 isolation wing at the Coast General Hospital has seen 14 deliveries; 10 of them normal and four cesareans.
Omanwa said pregnant women who contract the virus should also be handled separately by special teams while observing public health measures.
“In some hospitals, patients are mixed, meaning there are those with gynaecological related issues, cancer and those living with HIV and Aids. That is an issue that should be addressed,” said Omanwa.
Fredrick Kairithia, an obstetric and gynaecologist, said expectant women should observe personal hygiene during pregnancy.
He said at birth, women are advised to visit hospitals where measures to combat corona transmission are observed. “At the hospital, high temperature and other symptoms of the disease will be checked,” said Kairithia.
At birth, pregnant women and health care workers should also be in protective gear.
Kairithia said for mothers who test positive for corona, milk formula to reduce contact between the mother and the baby, should be introduced.
The number of hospital deliveries, according to the Ministry of Health since the introduction of Linda Mama programme, has been on the rise.
For example in 2017-18, there were 321,113 hospital deliveries. This has increased to 724,463 in 2018-19. Out of that number, 28,454 babies were delivered through cesarean.
World Health OrganiSation (WHO) notes that there is no evidence pregnant women can transmit Covid-19 to newborns during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding.
However, research is ongoing to understand the disease in pregnant women. Because Covid-19 is transmitted by droplets, the global health organisation further advises pregnant women to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
Pregnant women are also advised to give birth through the normal way. Cesareans should only be performed when doctors advise so.