As the sentiments of love were expressed on Valentine’s Day celebrated on Thursday, a 20-year-old mother is alleged to have made a decision to stuff her six day infant into a pillowcase and threw him in to a medical waste bin at King Edward Hospital. She has since been arrested and set to appear in court.
KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, expressed shock at the second baby dumping in the province in recent days. This latest incident occurred just three days after another infant was rescued from inside a storm water drain in Newlands East.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), the baby had been born at eight months, weighing 1,2kg and was being fed through an intravenous tube. He was being kept in an incubator in the hospital’s nursery to receive antibiotics and bide his time for weight gain.
“It is alleged that on the night of Thursday, 14 February 2019, the baby’s 20-year-old mother, from KwaMashu, had been breastfeeding him in the nursery. While the nurse had gone into the neighbouring ward, the mother allegedly wrapped him up in linen saver, put him inside the pillow, tied it up, and threw him into bin. She allegedly placed pieces of paper on top to conceal the pillow and closed the bin,” reported the DOH.
“When the nurse returned and discovered that the baby had gone missing, she asked the mother about his whereabouts, and she pleaded ignorance. The nurse then sounded the alarm bell and a frantic search for the baby began. According to Sister Makhosazana Hlophe, the nurses looked for the baby under hospital beds, over the windows, and even pulled up the linen from other patients’ hospital beds.
The pillow containing him was eventually found in a medical waste bin. The tiny baby had signs of suffocation, but was still breathing. A doctor was immediately called to resuscitate him. Nurses who were on duty at the time said that the bin could have contained anything from used needles, blood or human tissue. The bin had been due to be thrown away the next day, along with other medical waste, for eventual incineration,” added the DOH.
“The time has come for society to stop being in denial that children do have sex, and therefore need to be encouraged to use birth control pills, injections, implants and condoms – which are all free of charge – if they cannot abstain. It is also high time that women who are pregnant approached healthcare professionals and social workers about putting their unwanted babies up for adoption, instead of dumping them in garbage bins and storm water drains,” said MEC Dhlomo.
MEC Dhlomo has thanked the nursing staff of King Edward VIII Hospital – who begin each shift with a prayer – for rallying together and leaving no stone unturned when searching for the baby. The MEC said, however, that the situation whereby unwanted babies are being dumped cannot be allowed to continue. He is therefore calling for frank and honest discussion involving parents, guardians and their children, about sex and reproductive health.
“This is the second incident in one week in the same province. We are happy that both babies are alive. From the little history that we have, this 20-year-old mother – who has another child – had received a clear message from her boyfriend and from her father that she should not come back with the baby. We want to alert such citizens that there will always be support from government in the form of contraceptives; safe termination of pregnancy if it’s still early enough; or putting the unwanted baby up for adoption.
These incidents that we are seeing mean that we need to strengthen awareness about the numerous contraception options that are available. Women should not be falling pregnant when they don’t want to, so that they do not find themselves in such situations. They must come forward so that we can assist them. If a mistake happens and someone falls pregnant, government will take that baby and put them in adoption programmes. So, such things should not be happening. Now, the mother of this baby is in police custody, and she’s unlikely to ever see her baby again,” MEC Dhlomo added.He said, “We also want to appeal to parents to speak to their children about delaying their sexual debut. Children need to be encouraged to use condoms and know that there is something called birth control through the contraceptives and condoms that we offer free of charge. If we do not speak to our children as parents, they will get the wrong advice from elsewhere.”