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Opinions of Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Columnist: Festival Godwin Boateng

The ordeal of Suwaiba et al; another case of elitist and institutional injustice in Ghana

After struggling with pregnancy for 9 months, on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, at 3:00am, Suwaiba Abdul Mumin, delivered a baby at the labour ward of Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. The midwives who supervised the procedure, placed the baby on her chest immediately after delivery and subsequently informed her that, her baby was a male and weighs 4.02kg. Few minutes later, one of the midwives came back to alert the happy mother that, her son had passed on. The instantly traumatized mother had no choice, but to accept her fate. She then requested to be shown the body of her baby so she could mourn her dead. She was assured by the midwives to relax and recover since the body was kept safely for her collection.

In pain and shock, Suwaiba, on her way from the delivery room to another ward collapsed but was quickly revived. Later, her accounts say, one of the midwives brought a document and asked her to thumbprint, with an explanation of the said document being part of the medical procedure that must be undertaken before the body of her alleged dead baby is made available to her which she obliged. While patiently waiting for her baby’s body to personally confirm the death, troubled Suwaiba had a horrific shock of her life when the midwives told her they could not find the body. While in utter dismay with many questions than answers, the midwives further callously and trivially suggested the dead baby allegedly placed in a box may have been taken away by a labourer and burnt together with garbage. REALLY? Is that the proper way to go about such things in the Second Largest Teaching Hospital in Ghana? When did (dead) babies become papers in Ghana?

But fortunately, this concocted story of the midwives was later confirmed as false when a family delegation upon hearing the horrendous story visited the hospital for clarification. Upon questioning the labourer, he admitted to seeing a box but did not burn any garbage on the said night, let alone a baby. His version was also corroborated by KATH authorities as the said incinerator has not been used for five clear days prior to the delivery and was never used on the said Wednesday as well. The family reported the matter to the police who arrested the labourer and placed him in custody. He was later granted bail. The police subsequently invited the midwives who were present when Suwaiba delivered to come to the police station to give their statements. Later, when the family inquired progress from the Police, they were told the midwives were uncooperative; they would not report to the police to have their statements taken. Hmmm!!! But when in Ghana did the Police have their mandate of law enforcement ousted when cases involve midwives?

EXCEPT IN THIS CASE, I NEVER KNEW THAT, MIDWIVES IN GHANA (OF KATH) NOW AS PART OF THEIR TRAINING, HAVE BEEN LAWFULLY EMPOWERED TO DECIDE WHEN TO COOPERATIVE WITH THE POLICE IN AN INVESTIGATION! Clearly, Suwaiba’s Family did not get it wrong in their press release that: “the midwives were not ready to help the family retrieve their baby (dead or alive) and the police were not committed to finding solutions to our puzzle”

In the face of the attitude of the “powerful” midwives of KATH, who have now turned into overmighty subjects of Ghana laws and now “powerless and helpless” Police who can do nothing to let the Midwives cooperate, the enraged youth of Suweiba’s community who could not make any meaning of the deliberate tragic drama being displayed by workers of the two STATE INSTITUTIONS, seemingly scratching each other’s back decided to go to KATH and demand for the body of the baby themselves. Their peaceful march was met with insults and physical abuse from staff of KATH, and this resulted in a clash leading to the arrest of some of the members of the group.

The Police who could not find any provision in the laws of Ghana to cause the specially and awesomely created and untouchable midwives of Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital to cooperate with the investigations, suddenly and (rightly though) found their mandate, strength and muscle and were at their best, heavily armed with an objective of ENFORCING GHANA LAWS against the disenchanted youth who were protesting against their being in cahoots (ostensibly) with KATH to deny their sister her (dead) baby justice amidst beatings and torture.

Well, after the incident, the youth apologised stating inter alia that: “we are human [sic] and to err is human; we apologize for whatever has happened. We apologize entirely”. I have no problem with Ghana Medical Association withdrawing services, declaring strikes and working to protect its “attacked” members, neither do I have problem with the Police doing their work. Also, whilst I am mindful that, it is improper for anybody to attack the other even when s/he has been wronged, we all as a people must not forget that SINCE EVIL IS RUTHLESS IN PURSUIT OF ITS OBJECTIVES, VIRTUE MUST BE RUTHLESS IN SELF-DEFENCE.

I invite you to reflect on these weighty questions with me. Did you see the alacrity with which KATH released the LABOURER for the Police to arrest him? Why did the same not happen in the case of the MIDWIVES? You think, the Police will have appeared that impotent and powerless as they did in the case of the “UNCORPORATING MIDWIVES,” if they were LABOURERS? Will Suweiba be going through this ordeal merely to have the (dead) body of her own baby if she were to be the wife, sister or daughter or even a friend of a businessman, renowned engineer, lawyer, lecturer, police officer, politician, journalist, or a doctor?

As at the time of putting together this view, I learnt that, “ The Ministry of Health has given a 14-day ultimatum to management of Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) to produce 5 babies declared dead at the facility”(myjoyonline). These 5 babies may include Suwaiba’s baby and I consider this development as not only good for Suwaiba and the other (perhaps) four mothers. But also and more importantly, I consider the development as what can happen when powerless masses like you and I decide to let our voices count on heart-breaking officialdom irresponsibility, injustices, negligence and carelessness.

This case of Suwaiba is ONLY one of the many examples of ELITIST and INSTITUTIONAL INJUSTCES that many helpless Ghanaians suffer daily. But as Charles Darwin many years ago observed: “IF THE MISERY OF THE POOR BE CAUSED NOT BY THE LAWS OF NATURE, BUT BY OUR INSTITUTIONS, GREAT IS OUR SIN”. I add that, “our sin” BECOMES EVEN GREATER IF THE MISERY CAUSED ONTO THE POOR BY OUR INSTITUTIONS IS LEFT NOT FOUGHT AGAINST.

It will be a deep shame, a crying shame on our conscience that after all, we do not care deep if we should let Suweiba and the other powerless women suffer their undeserved fate alone. Yes, they might not have renowned businessmen, politicians, lecturers, doctors or lawyers husbands, neither may they have a brother or friend journalist to assist them. But the combined voices of you and I, trust me will surely do the magic. How at all could this matter have become a national concern but for the public outcry, rage and anger?

Why must the production of the body of babies declared dead by and at the same hospital become a litigation between the Nation and the Hospital from February, 5 up to today and now? It does not weigh sense, not even on the common scale.

Rest Not!!!! Let your voice count in ousting Elitist and Institutional Injustices in Ghana against the poor for Poor People, “ abr3” !!!!!!

Festival Godwin Boateng

An ordinary Ghanaian who does not even know who Suwaiba is nor any of the other affected mothers.