‘Obstetric fistula requires attention amidst COVID-19’

‘Obstetric fistula requires attention amidst COVID-19’

As medical practitioners are working tirelessly to curb the spread of COVID-19, health professionals have once again drawn attention to the plight of poor women living with obstetric fistula in the country.

They indicate that it is important to continue to create awareness of the disease and its devastating effect on women.

Prof. Anyetei T. Lassey,Professor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Ghana Medical School believes “we mustprioritise and improve maternal health services” to prevent pregnancy and labour complications including obstetric fistula during the pandemic.”

According to him, the associated “stigma and shame” of the disease were horrendous hence the need to join hands and strengthen the partnership in the fight against obstetric fistula.

“Ensuring the continuity of maternal health services in the midst of COVID-19 may hopefully reduce the incidence of obstetric fistula in Ghana, while the National Obstetric Fistula Task Team and the Ghana Health Service, continue to repair the backlog of unrepaired already existing fistula cases.” he said.

Speaking to The Spectator, he stressed the need to end gender and health inequalities to help achieve global and national objective of ending fistula by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Madam Rose Mantey, Senior Nursing Officer and Midwife in-charge of the Fistula Centre of Mercy Women’s Hospital, Mankessim, in the Central Region, also indicated that those with the condition “deserve our respect and empathy.”

“As a Senior Nursing Officer, I have worked with so many women and girls with obstetric fistula and I would not wish this condition on anyone.

“It is a humiliating condition. My prayer is that everyone with obstetric fistula would be repaired to help clear the backlog of existing cases in the country,” she said.

She said that most pregnant women and girls were apprehensive about accessing maternal health services due to the fear of COVID-19.

That, she said, could increase the probability of prolonged or undetected obstructed labour, which could increase cases of obstetric fistula.

“We need to encourage all pregnant women and girls to seek the services of a skilled birth attendant amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is my wish people become aware of this condition and we all work hard to prevent them from happening in the first place, so that in the near future Ghana would no longer report cases of obstetric fistula,” she added.

Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, Director General of the Ghana Health Service, commenting on the subject, also admittedwomen and girls “silently suffer indignity and shame simply because they have obstetric fistula.”

“Their sufferings push us to continue to put measures in place to prevent others from developing this devastating childbirth-related complication amidst the fight against coronavirus pandemic.

“My outfit will ensure the continuity of the provision of essential health services, which included sexual and reproductive health services for all amid the fight against COVID-19,” he said.

He stated Ghanaians especially women should not lose sight of the gains made by the Ghana Health Service and development partners in preventing and managing fistula cases.

“I encourage everyone to access maternal health services to ensure that complications such as obstetric fistula are prevented while adhering to the mandatory precautionary procedures of handwashing, using hand sanitisers, wearing nose masks and observing physical distancing,” he said.

By Geoffrey Buta

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