After a series of maternal deaths happened throughout the country, the Ministry of Health has sent a report to Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan.
At an obstetrical clinic in Hanoi.
According to the report, from April 20, 2012, at least nine women have died of pregnancy-related causes, though they were in good health before giving birth. In six cases, both the mothers and their babies died. In the three remaining cases, the babies were saved.
These cases happened at both private and state-owned hospitals in the six provinces of Bac Ninh, Hung Yen, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Dong Nai, Hanoi and HCM City.
Three of the cases are believed to be associated with Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE), a difficult-to-treat obstetric complication, even when being treated abroad. However, most of the deaths are linked to human error or irresponsibility.
The Ministry of Health has requested health departments of the six related provinces to urgently investigate these cases and to tighten control over hospitals and clinics.
The Ministry said that to cut down maternal deaths, it would strengthen the productive health caring network from the grassroots to the central level.
The Ministry of Health’s statistics shows that Vietnam has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world, with 69 deaths per 100,000. The government hopes to reduce the number to 59.3 deaths per 100,000 by 2015.
According to several experts, difficult terrain for traveling, poor access to advanced medical equipment, and belief in backwards customs and habits among some ethnic minorities are strongly linked to maternal deaths.
Some blame the deaths on low budgets. Luu Thi Hong, the department’s deputy chief, said each province or city in Vietnam annually receives a couple hundred million dong from the national budget for maternal care.
Some say, illogically designed work shifts at some major hospitals plays a big role in the deaths.
A 2011 survey by the Ministry of Health shows among 30 hospitals questioned, 93 percent admitted to assigning their staff to work 24/7 with a strong focus on day shifts. The survey shows on average a nurse takes care of 6.5 patients each day shift, while her counterpart has to care for 23 patients each night shift. By chance, most obstetric complications over the past month have happened at night.
Some medical errors that may be related to professional practice have been considered as unavoidable at many hospitals in which patients’ relatives are “assigned” as nurses and doctors and asked to replace IVs or put food into patients’ body through a tube.
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