Discontent is high in the northern population hub of Kulhudhuffushi after a mother bled to death following a caesarean section that is said to have been botched. The 33-year-old’s death has sparked continuing protests and fierce government criticism on the island.
Some 200 men and women protested outside the regional hospital on Sunday hours after primary school teacher Aishath Fariyal was buried in the capital Malé.
Angry protesters, who were demanding better healthcare, ended the protest when the island council promised reforms for the hospital, which serves tens of thousands of people in the Haa Alif, Haa Dhaal, Shaviyani and Noonu atolls.
Kulhudhuffushi Council President Ali Mohamed who had negotiated for a peaceful end to the protest was attacked during the protest yesterday.
Fariyal’s death has revived concern over poor quality of services in remote islands. Island hospitals lack qualified doctors and medical equipment.
The council, in a letter to health ministry, asked the government “to immediately fulfil the request of the public at this critical time.”
State Minister for Ministry of Health Abdulla Waheed today denied receiving any requests from the council prompting islanders to organize a second protest today.
Two men who were calling on islanders to gather at the hospital at 4:30pm were arrested at noon. A police spokesperson said the pair were detained on a charge of calling for a gathering at a restricted area.
The protesters are demanding a thorough investigation of Fariyal’s death and other suspected cases of medical negligence, and called for the resignation of hospital manager Ahmed Hassan and a doctor named Rao.
Mohamed Aiman, the Kulhudhuffushi council’s vice president, said that the public believes the hospital had failed to prevent Fariyal’s death. Dr. Rao, meanwhile is the subject of a lot of complains by patients who are not satisfied with his service, he added.
In the letter to the health ministry, the council said: “Due to incident that happened over the past four months related to birth, the frustrations of the people have gone out of control.
“We request that the Ministry inform the hospital of a decision as soon as possible.”
Although State Minister Waheed said he had not received a request for reform, he pledged to improve services at the regional hospital.
“Our aim is to bring Kulhudhuffushi hospital to the level of a tertiary hospital. But in the meantime services at the hospital will be improved,” Waheed was quoted as saying by newspaper Avas.
As a first step, the government has suspended the Egyptian gynecologist who operated on Fariyal.
Adam Shareef, a man who had participated Sunday’s protest, said: “Obviously the government is deaf and blind to our requests. We have no other option but to continue our protest until the government is forced to listen to us.
“This is not just about Fariyal. This is about all the people of north who are forced to come here to get treatment.”
Health professionals are rarely prosecuted for medical negligence. An Indian lab technician who was blamed for the transfusion of HIV positive blood to a Maldivian patient in 2014 was held for months in police custody and deported last year.
In November, a 57-year-old victim of a heart attack from the island of Milandhoo in Shaviyani atoll died when her oxygen tank ran out just as she was about to board a plane to the capital.
President Abdulla Yameen ratified in September the Health Services Act, a law aimed at improving healthcare and specifying code of conduct and the rights and responsibilities of the health sector.