Kampala, Uganda, May 14 – Activists in Uganda on Wednesday celebrated a “landmark” court ruling, which included 11,000 dollars in compensation to the family of a woman who bled to death during childbirth.
A judge ruled that the family of Irene Nanteza had been “denied the care and companionship of their mother and wife” due to the “flagrant act of neglect of duty” by doctors.
Nanteza, a mother of three who had an obstructed labour condition, died in May 2011 after being left for over eight hours without medical help at a hospital in Nakaseke, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of the capital Kampala, according to court documents.
The case was brought to court by the independent Center For Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), as well as Nanteza’s husband and daughters.
The organisation said the ruling was a “wake up call to government”, calling for health workers to be paid a better wage to ensure that – as in the case of Nanteza’s death – the doctor was not absent because he had left “to go find an extra earning that day.”
An estimated 16 women die though childbirth-related complications every day in the east African country, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.
“This judgement is particularly important, because it illustrates that Ugandans can hold government and its agents — the health workers, administrators and local government — accountable to the citizens,” CEHURD chief Moses Mulumba said.
Nakaseke local district administration had insisted Nanteza had received all the necessary examinations at the hospital, that there was a doctor on duty, and that there was no negligence of care.
The ruling comes as the government debates budget allocations for ministries.
“Over the past five years however, Uganda has shown no significant progressive increment in the budget allocations to the health sector,” CEHURD added