By Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health:
I welcome the announcement by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu that 10 maternal homes will be set up to improve the care of pregnant mothers.
This will hopefully assist in ensuring that babies in high-risk cases are born healthy.
According to Mahlangu, it should also reduce the number of lawsuits against the department because of babies damaged at birth by poor care.
She disclosed yesterday before the public accounts committee of the Gauteng Legislature that the department has paid more than R160 million in medical lawsuits since 2012.
The idea of a maternal home is that expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancies are housed in a congenial environment with round-the-clock medical care.
The first maternal home in Pretoria will be established by the Pretoria West Hospital.
In the West Rand two homes will be established, one within Carletonville Hospital and another one around Yusuf Dadoo Hospital.
At Ekurhuleni it will be established around Bertha Gxowa Hospital, and in Johannesburg, by South Rand Hospital.
Another will be around Johan Heyns Community Health Centre in Vanderbijlpark.
These maternal homes will only work if high-risk cases are detected at an early stage, but less than half of all mothers presently attend ante-natal clinics in the first 20 months of pregnancy.
The broader problem of negligence in maternity wards requires sufficient staff, an improvement in their attitudes and skills, and proper equipment.
Maternal homes can play an important role, but general care in hospital maternity units also needs to be improved.