The tragedy of a pregnant woman whose baby died after she was forced to give birth outside the doors of a public hospital because she could not afford a small admission fee has outraged people in Egypt, where one-third of the 104 million population lives below the poverty line.
The woman was rushed to the emergency room of Kafr Shoukr central hospital in Qalyubia province after going into labour but was denied medical care unless her husband would first pay 1600 Egyptian pounds (about $US 50), local news outlets reported.
When the man could not pay the required amount, the hospital did not allow his wife treatment. The hospital staff also refused pleas to allow the woman in and defer payment until later.
Two women accompanying the pregnant woman appeared in a video that went viral on social media, shouting and asking for help.
They eventually left but the woman gave birth on the hospital’s doorsteps, almost 40 minutes later, after her umbilical cord ruptured leading to stillbirth, according to preliminary investigations.
The husband reported the incident to the police, accusing the hospital officials of causing the death of his child and endangering his wife’s life.
The hospital director was then sacked and the health ministry opened an official investigation into the incident.
Millions of Egyptians have long suffered from a flawed healthcare system that deprives them of adequate care or proper insurance, especially amid the current economic crisis.
In 2014, the Egyptian government obliged, in an official decree all hospitals, whether public or private, to offer the necessary treatment for any emergency cases in the first 48 hours of arrival, after similar incidents took place that involved poverty-stricken people losing their lives over delayed care.
After the first 48 hours, the hospital can give the patient the choice of whether to continue at the hospital and pay the fees or be transferred to another.
Nevertheless, according to a board member in the doctors’ syndicate, who asked to remain anonymous, “this decision has not been fully put into effect as hospitals, especially extravagant, private ones, manipulate all the time.”
“Private hospitals of different categories don’t apply the government’s decision unless the patient or his or her family call the police and report the incident to the health ministry on time, which is rarely the case with emergency cases and accidents that require immediate attention,” the board member told The New Arab.
“Like many other cases, there must be a scapegoat to blame, who is the director in this case, in order to ease the crisis that went viral. But the actual problem remains,” he concluded.