Dakar (AFP): Senegal has arrested three healthcare workers over the death of a pregnant woman and her baby, a union representative said Thursday, in the latest in a string of maternal mortality tragedies.
During a delivery in the rural southeastern town of Kedougou on Tuesday night, a woman and the baby she was carrying died, a health union representative told AFP on condition of anonymity because the legal case was ongoing.
Local media reports have described terrible conditions at the health centre in Kedougou, about 700 kilometres (435 miles) from the capital Dakar and one of the poorest towns in Senegal despite its mineral deposits. Three people — a gynaecologist, an anaesthetist and a nurse — have been arrested since Wednesday, the union representative said.
“They are being held in custody at the Kedougou gendarmerie over negligence”. Senegal’s underfunded healthcare system suffers from a shortage of staff, equipment and medicines. The West African country has a maternal mortality rate of about 315 deaths per 100,000 births, well above the global average of 211, according to 2017 data from the UN children’s fund.
The Senegalese Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (ASGO), which has a member among the three detained health workers, defended the team’s care and called it a “wrongful arrest”.
In a statement issued Thursday evening, the association said the team had taken “the appropriate decision” for the woman and her baby, using the “obstetrical technique” that was needed. The association “renews (its) support for its colleague who ooperates (hundreds) of kilometres from Dakar in extremely difficult working conditions”, the statement said.
Senegalese media reported that Dioura Diallo, who was in an advanced state of pregnancy and whose age was not specified, arrived Tuesday evening at the health centre.
She died after bleeding heavily and following a caesarean section during which the baby suffered injuries before dying, according to reports. The incident echoes another that prompted outrage earlier this year. On April 7, Astou Sokhna, a woman in her thirties, died in childbirth in a hospital in Louga, northern Senegal, after waiting in great pain for a caesarean section that she had requested.
Three midwives were sentenced in May to a six-month suspended prison sentence for “failure to assist a person in danger” in that case.
On May 25, 11 newborn babies died in a hospital fire in the western town of Tivaouane.
Three people who were in preventive detention as part of the investigation were released on bail in August, according to local media.
Four newborn babies also died in a fire in a neonatal unit at Linguere, northern Senegal, in April 2021.
President Macky Sall acknowledged the health system had become obsolete after the Tivaouane tragedy and ordered a nationwide audit of neonatal services.