Colombo death of mother of five with two new-borns

by Ajith

A 42 years old mother of five children died with her still-born twins early 2019 at Castle Hospital and media published sensationalized reports about the incident. The mother had 14 years old son and two daughters nine and four years old. 

Husband of the deceased person blamed medical negligence for the death. Hospital authorities stated that a formal inquiry would be held regarding the death. The husband of the deceased woman said to media that his wife had been prepared for Caesarean section and given medication for hyperglycemia before she suddenly succumbed to a respiratory failure. The attempts by the doctors to save the lives of the unborn twins failed. 

However, in this story, we are focusing to the problem of maternal mortality in Sri Lanka. 

According to the Maternal Mortality Report of the Ministry of Health for 2016, the number of maternal deaths that had occured during the year was 112. Accordingly, Maternal Mortality Rate of the year is 33.8%, recording the best performance among the countries in South Asia.  However, Sri Lanka's Maternal Mortality Rate has remained unchanged for the past seven years, despite all attempts by the health authorities to improve the conditions. 

Direct maternal deaths recorded as 55% in 2016. The three main reasons for the maternal deaths were postpartum hemorrhage, complications related to placenta previa and heart diseases. 43% of the deceased mothers had not obtained medical advise timely or they had not been admitted to hospital. Delays the health staff must be responsible are attributed to 44 deaths. 20 mothers died because they failed to use proper family planning methods. The report mentions that 55% of the maternal deaths could have been avoided. 

Health authorities claim that all maternal or post-natal deaths that occur in the country are comprehensively investigated on a basis of fact finding and analysing the situation without penalizing anyone. Health staffs at hospital, district and national levels take part in these investigations. Associations of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, anesthesiologistss and Judicial Medical Officers provide technical support for the investigations. 

For some reason, 10% of Sri Lankan pregnant women are still not visited by midwives at least once a month, according to the 2015 facts of Family Health Bureau. 5% of pregnant women do not visit clinics at least once before delivery. 

In 1948, Sri Lanka recorded as much as 1700 maternal deaths per annum. Conditions have improved immensely but further improvements depend on challenging actions and developments.