•Where 3,600 are born yearly
By PATIENCE AKPURU
You probably have heard countless stories about baby factories across the country. Well, it is a fad that has refused to go out of whim. Often, the stories of teenage girls kept in pens to bear and forfeit their babies are part of the touching stories. Some of the centres have been raided by the police, but a host of them are still thriving. Now, think of a baby factory licensed by law and to which people stream to of their own accord. Consider also that this factory delivers more than 300 babies every month.
Then, you are likely thinking what a large number that is! When you calculate that much for a year, you have a staggering 3,600 babies! And it is happening in Lagos. Now, you are wondering where the hell that factory is located. Well, Sunday Sun took a trip to this spectacular outfit and made an interesting discovery. Welcome to Lagos Island Maternity Hospital, the nation’s largest baby factory. It is one baby factory without the ills often associated with the other factories you may have known. Established in 1960, Island Maternity (as it is fondly called) has been caring for expectant mothers for more than 50 years. And that is to say that the first set of babies born in this hospital are already parents themselves; or even grandparents.
So, over the years the hospital has emerged one of the health facilities to reckon with across the country. And like it was reliably gathered, people come to this hospital from every part of Lagos and even neighbouring states. And each time you are there, the crowd is always amazing. Our correspondent recently visited the age-old facility and reports that it is still the largest baby factory in the country. As at 9 a.m. when our correspondent got to the place, a large number of pregnant women were already waiting for hours. It was discovered that but for the walls begging for a coat of paint, most of the facility appeared to be in good shape. The floor is clean and one can conclude that it was swept that morning.
The reception hall, which wore shiny tiles, must have been mopped up that morning. That is a plus, you would say. But beyond that, there is the laboratory, the family planning section, the heart-to-heart centre, the pharmacy (one for free drugs and another for drugs paid for), and then the canteen from which a refreshing aroma steamed. One couldn’t get a feel to justify the taste on the tongue. Well, that is obviously where meals are prepared for patients. It was gathered that meals are served patients free of charge. However one expectant mother decried how long she had to wait each time she came for ante-natal.
The woman, who appeared thin and fragile, told our correspondent she had been there since 7:30 a.m., saying she had waited four hours. “Normally,” she explains, “they will take us inside that hall and hold a lecture for about 30 to 40 minutes. We discuss any subject on pregnancy. After that, they check our BP (Blood Pressure), urine and weight. Then the dietician will tell us what kind of food we should be eating and things like that.” After that begins the long wait for a doctor; after which the women could go home for the day. As our correspondent sat among the pregnant women, it wasn’t difficult knowing what sort of things they often discuss when they come together. One of the patients told the story of a particular woman she didn’t know was pregnant until “I went upstairs (the maternity ward) and saw her with a baby.
I didn’t know she was even pregnant, talk more of giving birth. I was really surprised,” she said. She went on to describe the woman; “she is very tall and fat.” As she made the description, another expectant mother noted that most of ‘such women grow their pregnancies around their waists (rubbing a hand around her waist). So, you will not know until they have delivered.’ In another minute, one other heavily pregnant woman strolled sluggishly past the hall, as she did so, one other woman sitting close-by whispered to yet another, ‘see this woman, her tummy is so big. I am sure she will give birth any moment from now.’
And they had a light-hearted laughter. Then the expectant mothers were called one after the other into the consulting rooms to meet with the doctors. Some nurses made several trips from one room to another with files, obviously belonging to the pregnant mothers. Except for a little show of smugness, one can give the nurses a pass for the way they carried themselves. But once in a while, you would hear one shouting at any sluggish mother as if dealing with some school pupils. But there was indeed one particular nurse that was truly beautiful; her dress was sparkling clean and her hair was woven into large rolls of Didi.
At this juncture, some nurses were seen decorating a table at the extreme end of the hall; and on the other hand, some women were seen standing just by the entrance of the hall in customized ankara outfits. While the show lasted, few people understood what was going on. Sunday Sun soon found out they were members of the Customs Officers Wives Association (COWA). They had come for a courtesy visit and made a handsome donation of maternity stuffs like pads, diapers, towels, toiletries, etc. In fact, a hospital official was heard telling one of the visitors how useful the materials would be to the hospital, because ‘sometimes we have to buy some of these things for them. Some of them come here with nothing’ (referring to the new mothers).
And soon, people began to stream to the table and the donated materials were officially presented by leader of the delegation, Mrs. Jumoke Lawal, to the Managing Director of Island Maternity, Dr. Donald Imosemi. He expressed gratitude for the materials and jokingly assured them that the hospital was open to receive them when they get pregnant. And there was general laughter. The visit of these women gave our correspondent the opportunity to tour the wards with them. The MD led the group to the fourth floor of the building and introduced them to one of the matrons in charge of that particular ward, and instructed her to give them maximum cooperation.
Then he went back to his office, while the women continued from one ward to the other. Later in his office, Dr. Imosemi told Sunday Sun how the hospital fills an important need for the state and the nation at large; because like he noted, Lagos is a mini Nigeria. Child and maternity health, he said, are paramount to the state government and that explains why it has invested immensely in ensuring that every woman who gets into Island Maternity is given the best of care, rich or poor. “Lagos Island Maternity Hospital,” he said, “represents a very important maternity health unit in Lagos State, given the fact that we attend to referrals from most of our sister general hospitals, private hospitals and even some health institutions outside Lagos; that includes referrals from neighbouring states like Ogun and Oyo.
“And it is because we are a stand-alone maternity hospital. It is not like other hospitals that would just have a section for maternity; you can imagine this whole complex just for maternal health. So, that positions us to be able to absorb by way of referrals most emergencies that come around, alongside the fact that we have over 200-bed space. We have appropriate and adequate manpower that helps us to cope with emergencies that come from far and wide.” The doctor also explained why the hospital has continued to be the preferred option for pregnant mothers. “What makes it unique is because the state government operates a very welfarist and highly subsidized medical care, including maternity care services.
Island Maternity is one of the several government hospitals that, if you bring an emergency obstetrical case, even when the patients and relatives do not have money, we are mandated by law to provide succour within 24 hours without making deposition of money mandatory.” He expressed regret that most of the patients were usually brought in in very bad shape. “In a month, for example, we do about 100 emergency caesarian sections. These are emergencies; I am not talking of elective surgeries. I am telling you that less than 30 per cent of these people will even pay fully whatever token fee they may be charged at the end of the day. And that is even after we would have saved them and sorted out things.
So, when you hear that we lose some lives, those are lives of pregnant women brought in very bad condition; where despite our capacity as a well-equipped outfit, the situation may be helpless.” In one month, Dr. Imosemi said, “we deliver between 250 and 300 babies, but that doesn’t tell the true picture, because years back, the figures were even higher. Overtime the government has built capacity in other general hospitals. Why should people come from Epe, Ikorodu, Badagry, etc? So, the Island Maternity of old, where everybody came here may not be again, because it does not augur well for quality care no matter the number of doctors you may have.” It is very likely that some babies born in this hospital years ago are also reading this piece. Hope you had an interesting ride through Nigeria’s largest baby factory.