October 7, 2013
Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat
This story appeared in several Mexican news media on October 4. Although it has been posted in the Borderland Beat Forum by “Aquiniga”, I felt it deserved a more detailed translation. Also, I decided to post the two versions that have appeared in several journals because they give slightly different accounts of this shameful incident. I want to make it clear that there is nothing shameful on the mother’s part. What is shameful is how she was treated simply because she is Mazatea.
El Diario version: “Indigenous woman from Oaxaca gives birth on the hospital’s yard because they would not admit her.”
Oaxaca– A woman went to seek help at the Health Center at the Jalapa de Diaz Municipality, however, she did not get the help she needed to give birth, and, for that reason, was forced to deliver her baby in the courtyard of the medical institution.
The events took place on October 2, and, according to witness statements, the woman, who was of Mazateco ethnicity, arrived at the clinic at noon and for two hours requested help so that she could give birth under optimal conditions. However, personnel at the clinic, which is managed by Dr. Adrian Rene Cruz Cabrera, ignored the woman, who began labor on the patio.
The Jalapa de Diaz Municipal President, Silvia Flores Pena, confirmed the conditions under which the woman gave birth and said the mother as well as the baby were in good health. Flores Pena also said that she was not present in the municipality when the events took place and therefore did not know the name of the mother or the place she was transferred to. However, she said that as soon as she became aware of the incident, she sought medical help for the woman and her child.
The (Municipal) president also said that this is not the first time that medical services have refused to assist women in labor; there was a similar incident a month and a half before, and she explained that the Health Center is undergoing a work stoppage for political reasons, that she has submitted the appropriate complaint to the Tuxtepec Sanitary Jurisdiction but has not gotten an answer. For this reason, she will take the report before the Oaxaca Health Secretariat, headed by German Tenorio.
The Deputy Secretary of Health in Oaxaca, Maurilio Mayoral, claims that accidental birth is a constant fact in medicine and the problem must have been that the woman was turned away, which is why he would investigate the incident to know what happened.
In July, employees with Section 35 of the National Syndicate of Health Secretariat Workers engaged in graduated (work) stoppages demanding relocation of work areas in the Tuxtepec region. In August, the management of the union changed in the state and there was a proposal to lift the work stoppages, but the stoppages continued.
OAXACA, Oax. (apro).- With labor pains upon her, Irma arrived at the Jalapa de Diaz Health Center when it was still dark, accompanied by her husband. The clinic was undergoing a partial work stoppage, so she told the few employees working there that she was about to give birth. She had had contractions for several hour and she was fully dilated.
The doctors asked her a few questions but did not attend her. Afterwards, they would argue that, because the Mazatec Indian woman ‘s Spanish was not perfect, they could not understand her. Or that, since she had been attended by midwives during her pregnancy, they did not understand clearly what was happening. For whatever reason, they decided they could not understand her and ignored the obvious: the woman needed help.
Irma Lopez Aurelio waited for two more hours. She tried to get help from nurses and administrative personnel, but nobody would admit her.
This is why, at dawn this past Wednesday, when the sun had just come up, she went to the health center’s garden and there, without any help, she gave birth to a baby that weighed 5.5 lbs.
Only then did they help them.
A citizen who was there took a photograph of what was happening, right after the delivery. The woman is seen squatting, and the baby on the grass, still attached by its umbilical cord.
In his Facebook page, Eloy Pacheco Lopez explained: “After waiting and asking for help for two hours she gave birth in the yard of the hospital after she was ignored by personnel working under the alleged doctor Adrian Rene Cruz Cabrera” (sic).
The image was taken up by Portal Ruta 35 and began to get disseminated on Twitter, where comments multiplied, criticizing the conduct of the hospital’s medical personnel and that of Health Secretary German Tenorio Vasconcelos.
The state government issued a bulletin in response in which it points out that it ordered “an impartial and thorough investigation of the medical personnel in the Jalapa de Diaz Health Center to determine responsibility for the alleged medical negligence in the treatment of Mrs. Irma Lopez Aurelio, who gave birth at dawn on Wednesday, October 3”.
However, the Secretary of Health tried to shift the spotlight elsewhere. The government’s statement says: “I find it reprehensible that this unfortunate incident was used for morbid purposes throughout the social networks, injuring the image of the woman and her child and second, affecting the image of health workers.”
The official’s irritation grew because the cybernaut who uploaded the photograph had added to his post the following: “POLL: Do you think the government of CHANGE is living up to its promise to improve Oaxaca’s health system?” (sic)
The responses to the question were overwhelmingly against the government.
Maybe yes, maybe no
Employees who have worked at the Rural Health Center “C” in the municipality (county) have told of the shortages, material and human, with which they are supposed to provide (medical) care to women who go there to give birth.
In the case of the rural clinic, it does not have enough childbirth rooms, and there are frequent shortages of medications such as oxitocin, a medication used to trigger or accelerate uterine contractions.
Contradicting this information, the Secretary of Health stated, via a communication, that the woman showed up at the Jalapa de Diaz Health Center with a full term birth and advanced dilation, which caused the baby’s expulsion before medical personnel admitted her to the medical installation to receive care.
He said that the incident took place “at dawn this past Wednesday, October 3” and not at noon as stated by the Facebook user. The problem is that October 3 was a Thursday.
“The advanced stage of the woman’s labor, in addition to the lack of night personnel in the Jalapa de Diaz Health Center, resulted in the woman giving birth under inadequate conditions.”
He explained that according to the Jalapa de Diaz Health Center personnel working that shift, early on Wednesday morning the woman, accompanied by her husband, went to that medical unit for medical attention, for which she received detailed instructions on how to prepare herself for childbirth, insofar as she evidenced a very advanced stage of labor.
“Unfortunately, the woman, in desperation, decided to go out to the rear of that space, where her son was finally born, showing good health and registering a weight of 2 kilos 400 grams (approx. 5.5 lbs) and a length of 48 centimeters (about 19 in.).
In the meantime, he stated that the newborn child and his mother were provided immediate attention. The baby was given his vaccines and neonatal procedures, while the mother received appropriate treatment.
Subsequently, in an interview with Milenio Television, he insisted that the center’s staff told her to wait “outside while they got the services ready”, which is when she went to the rear of the place, but “when they went out to look for her, they couldn’t find her”.
The woman “has problems understanding Spanish”, but “none of that is an excuse”, he admitted, “even if it were the most remote areas of the country, like the Mazatec Mountains.”
Questioned about the alleged work stoppage at the center, he admitted that there is some suspension of activities in some of the units, but he emphasized that the union has been “very responsible” in closing only administrative offices and “by no means” denying (medical) care to the citizenry.
|Jalapa de Diaz is situated adjacent to a lone highway and
many miles from other cities [click on image to enlarge]
The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) initiated a complaint for the alleged violation of the Mazatec woman’s human rights.
The organization indicated that adjunct investigators (visitadores) went to the location to interview the wronged party and her family members, in addition to requesting information from the (government) agency involved in this matter in order to compile evidence and put together a file.
“The CNDH has repeatedly stated that the right to protect health is a basic right for persons who belong to an indigenous group, and particularly for pregnant women,” states the text.
The Oaxaca Human Rights Commission, in turn, initiated its own complaint to investigate whether there was negligence in the case and requested information from the state’s Health Secretariat, according to EFE news agency.
The director of that organization, Bernabe Hernandez, announced that Commission personnel will travel tomorrow to that area, which is located seven hours from the state capital, to locate the woman and obtain her version, as well as the testimony of persons who witnessed the event.