Call her a unique nurse, a mother, exceptional nightingale, Mother Theresa…they are all befitting, Ndidi Chukwu writes about a Bayelsa State outstanding midwife in service, Menrem Rebecca.
“One nurse to over 200 patients per day has become the nature of my job every day, but I have treated close to three hundred now that health centers are under lock and key due to the national Joint Health Sector Strike” with smiles on her face Menrem Rebecca a native of Southern Ijaw in Bayelsa State, could be called “a nurse with an exception.”
At her Clinic, Egbedebiri Cottage Hospital Sagabama Local government Area, Menrem Rebecca a matron, and midwife, faces “the calling to do Charity” as a nurse working with her team the cottage hospital could immunise 30 children in one day, take deliveries for women in labour, conduct antenatal session for pregnant women and do family planning. She said the influx of patients to the hospital is a result of her commitment and community mobilisation to women to access health care in the 20 bed space hospital.
She said “leaving the luxury and comfort of my home in Lagos city, to Egbedebiri is to prove my passion and love for saving mothers and children”
To Menrem wearing nursing uniform is not just to earn a living, but to do charity. She said “it is about having the heart to save a sick child, with or without strike”. To her the nursing profession is a calling to serve humanity.
Mummy Rebecca as called by some young mothers who she has helped through two to three pregnancies and successful deliveries, is one out of many Nigerian nurses that would prefer to save a life than join the band-waggon on national strike “When other health workers go on strike, we still give our care, what do we do? Because you are living with them, I cannot stay in this community and people are on strike, I will now dress up, say I’m a nurse and tell a dying patient that I’m on strike I won’t work”
“How do you feel when the person dies?” She asked this rhetoric question, many nurses never had answer to.
Recently, Health Reporters spotted Menrem alone in entire hospital, taking deliveries, doing antenatal care, immunisation, counselling and giving family planning methods out to women. Menrem also did mobilise community women for birth registration, alone with no colleague to give a helping hand, It was maternal newborn child health (MNCH) week, with only one nurse on duty but she said “they are in solidarity strike to our national body JOHESU”
“All heads of departments are to work and I’m an administrative head, so I can’t go on strike”
The challenges faced during the Maternal Newborn Child Health Week in Bayelsa State due to health workers strike necessitated selfless Menrem, doing multiple job at a time, treating sick patients, immunisation, antenatal care, taken deliveries, birth registration and family planning in one day. Menren is different because she could use mobile phones to mobilise her patients from neighboring villages to Egbedebiri to take advantage of the health week.
She said “this is MNCH week I’m the only one here, but I will do my best, the important thing is saving lives, with or without strike”
“We have to use these intervention drugs from our international donors, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) drugs must not be a waste to us, they buy it with money, the least we could do is to ensure it is given to the children” said Menrem
“If there is an emergency here and I say I will not work, it won’t be fair, I have been having emergency cases, it is worst to let people die when you can help them”
“Being a midwife, is an interesting job, it is mostly charity work, because if you say you want to do it professionally, you find it very difficult mostly in rural areas, you must have that charity mind in you if you can do a job like nursing or midwife”
Every job has its reward, for her, “God keeps her family when she is away” She said, “the more I do my job with all diligence and commitment, God takes care of my family, my children hardly fall sick. When they do it is only catarrh or cold and I give them simple drugs for cold and they are well, I feel God takes care of them because of my labour to save women and children, I am in Bayelsa State and they are in Lagos State, but they are well behaved and never sick”
She believes a total shut down of health care delivery, by health workers is “selfishness” getting the Nigerian government to respond to the demands of health workers who are currently on strike according to her could be done through other means “not helping a sick child and a mother, because I’m on strike is not right”
The regular shut down of health care services by health workers in Nigeria no longer go with the hype and fear that lives could be lost. Health Workers who use industrial action to get Nigerian government to listen to their plights have begun to lose the empathy that goes with such agitation from citizens, thus deaf goes the ears that hear and issues remain unsettled.
Menrem left her family in Lagos to Bayelsa State, to help the helpless mothers and children to survive, she recalled, “When the doctors were on strike I work here through out that period, I was attending to 200 patients per day, nobody knew that doctors were on strike”
“For all these crisis in the health sector, they are only monetary agitation, everything is not money, because when you are making people get richer you are getting poorer, people are getting richer with your strike and you are at home angry, no money to eat, you are not going to work, anything strike, I don’t want to hear it, because we don’t benefit from it” She added
Public hospitals in Nigeria have been deserted by medical and health workers, under the auspices of Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) hopes were however high in Bayelsa State, as the State planned the last phase of the nationwide MNCH week for 2014, but got a bluff of a lifetime when the State Health Workers Union, on Monday 9th December, locked down health facilities , insisting on its sympathy strike to its national body.