Newborn Dies of Neglect at Luanda Hospital

Groaning with the pains of labor, Florinda Domingos writhed on the ground in the parking lot at the Augusto N’gangula Maternity and Pediatric Hospital in Luanda on the night of September 9.

Bystanders called for the medical team to come and attend to the woman in labor, who had been ordered out of the hospital waiting room by guards acting on the orders of the hospital staff. Her family members and other patients’ relatives also called frantically on the hospital personnel, who were ignoring calls for help.

Ms. Domingos’s sister-in-law, Flora Rosita, told Maka Angola that Florinda “was thrown out of the waiting room by the guards because the doctors said she was only permitted to enter the waiting room at midnight.”

Cândida Nimila, another sister-in-law, explained that the hospital staff had ordered that Ms. Domingos receive attention only at midnight. Seven months pregnant, she had gone into labor prematurely.

Maka Angola can confirm that there were several unoccupied seats in the waiting room, and that most of the people inside were not patients.

At exactly 10.25am Ms. Domingos gave birth to a boy on the ground of the parking lot, between two parked ambulances, without medical assistance, and witnessed by guards, family members and Maka Angola’s journalist.

Only then did two bad-mannered and unrushed nurses arrive at the scene. On their way, they found time to instruct the guards and a policeman to expel from the hospital all those who had been trying to solicit help for Ms. Domingos and her newborn baby.

Only then did they give any attention to the new mother by cutting the umbilical cord.

One of the nurses took the newborn away, wrapped in a cloth belonging to his mother. The other nurse took Florinda Domingos by the hand and asked her to go inside the hospital, several meters away. There was no stretcher or wheelchair to take her. The family was left to clean the area where the child had been born.

The baby died in the incubator around 4am, according to the death certificate issued by the hospital. The family, who had spent the night at the hospital, was not informed until 10am. Cândida Nimila accused the medical team of hiding the truth. “This morning I had to keep insisting that they let us see the baby since that was the family’s right. Only then did they tell us the baby was dead,” Ms. Nimila said.

Hospital guards and the families of other patients told Maka Angola of corrupt practices that determine who is allowed into the waiting room and who has priority for treatment. Ms. Domingos’s family, who are poor and live in Boavista, managed to pay 2,000 kwanzas (US$20) to one of the nurses, but even this was not enough to secure a place in the waiting room.

“With no shame or anything, the nurse did not even give back the 2000 kwanzas after what happened,” Ms. Nimila said.

Meanwhile, according to official propaganda, “one of the main causes of death at the Augusto N’gangula Hospital is that women in labor arrive too late to receive help,” as indicated by the state daily Jornal de Angola on June 4, 2012.

On August 10, health minister José Van-Dúnem re-inaugurated the hospital after renovation work. The minister said: “We will continue to work so that all have access to decent health facilities, we are trying to eradicate child mortality in our country”. The hospital staff threw Florinda Domingos out of the same new hospital wing, decorated with a plaque next to the door which marks the re-inauguration of the hospital by Mr. Van-Dúnem.

The newborn boy, who was never named, was buried in Luanda’s Cemetery 14.