By Estelle Ellis
MORE government facilities need to start offering second-trimester abortions if South Africa hopes to stem the tide of deaths related to backstreet abortions, says PE Hospital Complex’s Obstetrics and Gynaecology head, Dr Mfundo Mabenge.
Dora Nginza Hospital is the only facility in the Eastern Cape that does second-trimester abortions.
But Mabenge believes a permanent, well-functioning service for women who are more than 12 weeks pregnant would save many women from dying, as it would offer them an alternative to turning to illegal abortionists.
"Most of the people who come here are already too late to get a first-trimester abortion. In the first two months of the year we had to turn away 35 women who came here too late,” he said.
"To obtain a second-term abortion, a patient needs the permission of a doctor and a midwife.
"We try to find out if the continued pregnancy will cause social and psychological problems for the woman and if the health of the mother or child is at risk.
"I would love to establish a special ward for second trimester abortions. At the moment, these woman are given tablets [and] have to come back when they are bleeding. Some of our patients live as far as 300km away.
"They then abort somewhere and we do not know where they dispose of the foetus. We need to find out what happens. We find a lot of foetuses in dustbins. These women are scared of coming to hospital.
"I feel there should be a ward where we can keep them. We have the beds but I do not have a dedicated doctor for that service.”
Provincial Health Department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said there were very few doctors willing to do second-trimester abortions and the attitudes of healthcare practitioners were a stumbling block in achieving more second-trimester abortion wards.