A hospital in the central province of Quang Ngai Monday suspended two nurse midwives for alleged involvement in the deaths of a woman and her baby during delivery last week.
Pham Minh Duc, director of the Mo Duc District General Hospital, said they are waiting for conclusions on the cause of the deaths of Huynh Thi Thanh Tung, 33, and her baby who died on Friday.
The midwives, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Nga and Duong Thi Ly, would be punished, if their actions were implicated in the deaths, he said.
Earlier Huynh Thi Kim Chinh, Tung's sister, told Thanh Nien that after Tung had been brought to the hospital Friday night, she was assessed to be in normal health, meaning she would have to wait for natural childbirth.
When Tung began to complain of great pain and weakness, her family demanded a C-section, but the midwives ignored their demand, Chinh said.
Nga even told them to stop disturbing the nurse midwives during their break, she said.
However, because the family kept urging them to do something about the pregnant woman's health condition, Nga checked Tung again and gave her a shot meant to improve her condition.
Even at that juncture, the midwife insisted that Tung had to wait for natural delivery.
But Tung was unable to bear her pain and lost consciousness soon after, Chinh said, adding that the midwives then called Dr. Nguyen Trung Dung.
Dung had the woman taken to the emergency room, but she and her baby died early next morning.
At a meeting organized right after the incident,hospital director Duc said records show that nothing suspicious happened during Tung's delivery.
When asked about the absence of doctors on duty, he said the hospital was facing a critical dearth of staff.
Elsewhere, authorities in the northern province of Quang Binh and the central province of Khanh Hoa have been ordered to report on the deaths of two pregnant women who died on March 26 and June 5 respectively.
Luong Ngoc Khue, chief of the health ministry's Treatment and Examination Management Department, asked the authorities to send the reports by June 20.
Over the past two months, at least 14 maternal deaths, including three in Quang Ngai, have been reported across the country, and in some cases, the babies have died with their mother.
Most cases happened at district-level hospitals and their causes remain unknown.
Nguyen Duy Khe, head of the Department of Maternal and Child Health under the health ministry, was quoted as saying on the Dan Tri news website that they were still waiting for reports and conclusions on the maternal deaths from local health departments.
Initial assessment of recent deaths was that some happened "force majeure," while others were caused by hospitals' lack of expertise, human resources and equipment, he said.
For example, during a delivery, an ECG monitor must be in place to keep track of the mother's heartbeats, but statistics showed that just 68 percent of hospitals at district level are equipped with it, the official said.
Many hospitals had just one ECG monitor, while around 20 deliveries a day happen at major district-level hospitals, Khe said.
He also quoted a ministry survey in 2010 as finding there were 5.5 doctors on average at the department of obstetrics and pediatrics at district-level hospitals.
Up to 21.3 percent of the surveyed hospitals did not have obstetricians and 51.7 percent did not have pediatricians, he said, stressing that situation was the same even at district hospitals in big cities like Ho Chi Minh City.
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