145 babies abandoned at Gauteng public hospitals last year
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Johannesburg – There are calls for the strengthening of support options for new mothers after the Gauteng Health MEC revealed that 145 babies were left without their mothers at Gauteng public hospitals last year.
Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi, in response to questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature by the DA’s Jack Bloom, revealed that 145 babies were abandoned at Gauteng public hospitals in 2020.
The MEC said Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital in Vosloorus had 51 abandoned babies in 2020, and other hospitals had large numbers of babies left without their mothers.
Leratong Hospital in Mogale City had 14 abandoned babies; Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in Parktown had 13 babies; Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto had 12 babies that were abandoned; Tembisa Hospital in Tembisa had 10 babies; and Tambo Memorial Hospital had five babies that were left without mothers.
According to Mokgethi, the reasons for abandoned babies include the baby being born disabled, teenage mothers, unwanted or unplanned pregnancies; lack of financial and or emotional support from the father of the baby; socio-economic issues; undocumented and foreign mothers; mental illness; substance abuse and relationship problems.
The MEC said that hospital social workers assisted nurses to identify new mothers at risk for abandonment and they try to get accurate contact numbers for the mothers.
She said that the social workers could also provide a donation of a basic pack of clothes and toiletries for the newborn, and a dignity pack and basic items for the mother.
Bloom said it was immensely distressing that there were so many abandoned babies owing to deep-rooted problems in society.
“There are also babies who are abandoned outside hospitals who do not survive. There are worthy NGOs who do good work in this area.
’’The support options for new mothers at risk should be strengthened and communicated widely so that no mother ever feels forced to leave her child for social reasons,” the shadow MEC for Health said.
Door of Hope operating director Nadene Grabham said that there were no official statistics on baby abandonments for the whole of South Africa.
’’She said the figures released were likely cases of mothers who gave birth in hospital and left the babies there, and cases where the police found the abandoned babies and took them to hospitals.
“These figures are just for Gauteng hospitals. What about the rest of the country? What about babies that were abandoned in unsafe places?” Grabham asked.
The operating director said she had been keeping track of articles about babies that were abandoned in unsafe places since April 2020 and the total was 158.
“Out of these 158 articles of known abandonments, 94 were found dead. That is quite a worry because how many are never found where they are abandoned in places people cannot get to,” she said.
Grabham said that, as a society, there needed to be more awareness of help centres and pregnancy crisis counselling centres.
“A lot of these moms don’t know that there are so many people all over South Africa that specialise in helping desperate pregnant moms, whether it is to help them place the baby into foster care and adoption if that is the mom’s choice,” she said.
Grabham said that there were also organisations that could help mothers with necessities to look after their babies.