A BBC panorama investigation into the functioning of maternity units in UK is an eye-opener to prevailing malfunctions which appears to be an everyday affair in the hospitals. In a sting operation conducted by BBC, some maternity units came under the scanner, to reveal some alarming practices.
Some of the maternity units were facing an acute shortage of staff. As a result most midwives were overburdened with work. The midwife in charge at a hospital where the investigation was conducted said, "We are chocca, we've got laboring women over here, and I've got someone in the bath and another being induced." She went to explain how the situation would get 'dangerous' during emergencies.
Midwives explained how they were overworked by staff shortages. There were instances where two midwives were taking care of 23 women in a ward. At times, to make room for emergency cases, they would resort to playing 'musical beds' to accommodate patients. Transitional wards which were unstaffed saved the day during such emergencies. And amid such a scenario if a woman arrives in the late stages of labor, she would be accommodated on a chair, due to shortage of beds.
Chief Executive of Barnet Hospital, which came under the scanner said: "We aim to make sure everybody has excellent treatment. This is a very important time for a mother giving birth to a beloved child, and we want to make sure that that is a good experience. But obviously when the units get busy, then decisions have to be taken and staffs have to make judgments at that time and to prioritize their work."
The staff at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester, also mentioned that they were overworked "Too much workload with high risk women. Too many patients not enough support staff," said one midwife.
Another problem that surfaced during the investigation was the dearth of crucial equipments at St Mary's, especially ones like the fetal heart monitors; it appeared that such equipments were managed by borrowing from other maternity wards.
Admitting to the loopholes at maternity units, a spokesman from a particular hospital said, "On occasions, there have been some instances when we have not met the expectations of all women and their babies within the post-natal ward environment. This is due to both the increased activity and complexity of medical and obstetric conditions that women have, combined with the provision of transitional neonatal care."
In summary, there is a crisis brewing in the maternity care in hospitals. Measures need to be taken on a war footing to save the day for patients availing care at such units.