By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is extremely alarmed over news reports that women are dying due to childbirth complications after being turned down successively by different hospitals.
CHR Commissioner Karen S. Gomez-Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on Gender Equality and Women’s Rights, said that pregnant mothers and newborn babies are among those who are highly susceptible to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
While it is understandable that the majority of health resources are now focused on treating COVID-19 patients and stemming the transmission of the virus, Gomez-Dumpit said that care and treatment for mothers and their infants should not be disregarded.
“Even with challenges brought about by the COVID-19, the right to health of women and children must continue be protected,” she said. “International and domestic laws are replete with provisions that mandate the protection of maternal and infant health and the prevention of mortality occasioned by childbirth.”
Gomez-Dumpit stressed that these are included in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which ensures healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.
Gomez-Dumpit likewise cited the fears of pregnant women now from going to health care facilities for checkups and even deliveries. Thankfully, some hospitals and doctors have been utilizing technology to do prenatal checkups.
The only downside to this, she said, is the difficulty in tracking high-risk pregnancies in virtual consultations. “Babies and infants whose immune systems are not yet fully developed are likewise prone to contracting infectious diseases if proper measures are not in place,” warned Gomez-Dumpit.
The CHR, as the Gender Ombud of the country, has urged the Department of Health (DOH) to issue appropriate protocols and guidelines for all health care facilities in attending to the needs of pregnant mothers and babies.
These recommendations include uninterrupted access to sexual and reproductive health services without discrimination; provision of personal protective equipment (PPEs) to obstetric care providers; clean and separate facilities for childbirth and neonatal care to ensure safe birth; unhampered services to pregnant women, those in labor and delivery, and lactating mothers;
and use of technology in prenatal and postnatal checkups.
The CHR also recommended the availability of COVID-19 test kits in childbirth facilities, should the same be needed; continued practice of physical distancing and other precautionary measures; and access to health care facilities by complying with laws such as the anti-hospital deposit law (R.A. 10932) and anti-hospital detention law (R.A. 9439), among many other things.
“A well-managed health care system is critical in minimizing, if not eliminating, the exposure of pregnant mothers and babies to COVID-19,” said Gomez-Dumpit.