Maharashtra fared the second best in the country after Kerala on maternal mortality rate (MMR) during 2010-12, but Mumbai has recorded a worrisome MMR of 158 this year. MMR refers to the number of women who die per one lakh live births in a given year due to complications arising during pregnancy or delivery.
Data available with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) health department reveals that the total number of deaths in Mumbai has jumped over the last few years with 222 maternal deaths recorded during 2010-2011, 259 in 2011-2012, 278 in 2012-2013 and 260 deaths recorded in the first 11 months of the financial year (April 2013 till February 2014).
Dr Padmaja Keskar, deputy executive health officer, BMC, attributes the high incidence of maternal deaths in the city to a large number of patients the civic hospitals receive from outside the city (Kalyan, Thane, Navi Mumbai, etc). “If we take maternal deaths of only Mumbai residents, then the MMR comes down to 71, which meets the Millennium Development Goals,” she said.
The state, as a whole, has fared well. From recording an MMR of 130 in 2004-2006, the state’s MMR improved to 104 in 2007-2009 and to 87 in 2010-2012. Data released by the Office of Registrar General, India, shows that Kerala has the lowest maternal mortality rate of 66, followed by Maharashtra with 87 and Tamil Nadu with 90.
Dr Almeida Fernanades, who runs a non-government organisation for improving health of women, said, “There are three major issues when it comes to dealing with pregnant women. Firstly, there is a lack of access to transportation. Secondly, not many uneducated pregnant women understand their medical needs and visit nearby hospitals and thirdly, the response they get in public hospitals is not prompt enough.”
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Keskar said the civic body has started improving the transport facilities, which has been a major cause for delayed treatment. “Below-poverty line women are also entitled to Rs 600 after their delivery under the Janani Suraksha Yojana scheme,” Keskar said.
According to Nyaneshwar Shelke, chief operating officer, Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services (MEMS), out of 470 emergency ambulances currently deployed across the state, 100 have been stationed in the city, including a few in Thane. By May-end, another 102 ambulances will be rolled out across Mumbai and Thane to deal with emergency medical cases. “According to our estimates, of the total calls we receive for medical emergencies, about 20 per cent are for delivery-related issues,” she said.
While Maharashtra has achieved the Millennium Development Goals of reducing MMR below 109, Mumbai continues to have a high incidence of maternal deaths. The country too is lagging behind in curbing the MMR with 178 deaths per one lakh live births recorded in the period 2010-2012.
Fernandes said while women in rural areas face issues like slow decision making which eats up valuable treatment time, in urban set-ups the situation is opposite. “In our city, pregnant women take quick decisions to visit a clinic, however the delay in getting medical aid in civic hospitals leads to issues in pregnancy and delivery,” Fernandes said.