Three of the cases are believed to be associated with Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE), a difficult-to-treat obstetric complication, even when being treated abroad.
However, most of the deaths are linked to human error or irresponsibility.
A report to the Ministry of Health over the death of pregnant 39-year-old N.T.M.H, who was admitted to Quang Ngai hospital on April 21, shows the woman did not have any health problems except for suffering some bleeding from her vagina. She was diagnosed to have a premature delivery of a 36-week baby.
Four hours after being hospitalized, the woman suffered headaches, dizziness, high-blood pressure, and prenatal problems.
The mother-to-be was transferred to the operating room 20 minutes later when she gave birth to a 1.7kg baby girl, who died soon after.
By April 30, the mother died of multiple scratches on the vesica, cervix , and vagina.
Another fatal case was that of N.T.T.T, who died of severe bleeding after delivering a baby boy at a hospital in the southern province of Dong Nai on May 2.
Some experts from Dong Nai’s Department of Health claimed T. suffered a complication during childbirth that caused excessive bleeding. The patient’s relatives were asked to buy extra blood at another hospital, some kilometers away. Yet the doctors failed to save her life.
69 maternal deaths per 100,000
Statistics released by the Ministry of Health’s Department of Mother and Child Health Protection shows that Vietnam has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world, with 69 deaths per 100,000. The government hopes to reduce the number to 59.3 deaths per 100,000 by 2015.
According to several experts, difficult terrain for traveling, poor access to advanced medical equipment, and belief in backwards customs and habits among some ethnic minorities are strongly linked to maternal deaths.
Some blame the deaths on low budgets. Luu Thi Hong, the department’s deputy chief, said each province or city in Vietnam annually receives a couple hundred million dong from the national budget for maternal care.
Some say illogicality in designing working-shifts at some major hospitals plays a big role in the deaths.
A 2011 survey by the Ministry of Health shows among 30 hospitals questioned, 93 percent admitted to assigning their staff to work 24/7 with a strong focus on day shifts. The survey shows on average a nurse takes care of 6.5 patients each day shift while her counterpart has to care for 23 patients each night shift.
By chance, most obstetric complications over the past month have happened at night.
When asked what the major causes of the maternal deaths are, a senior official of the department, who wanted to be anonymous, said: “From now to this year-end, there will be fewer deaths.”
According to the official, both sides – hospitals and pregnant women – are responsible for the deaths.
“Did you know that of the women who died of pregnancy -related complications, many had a third child? They were found at fault. We did not want to talk about it because it’s a sensitive matter. Don’t ask what the cause is, it’s not constructive,” she said.
Some medical errors that may be related to professional practice have been considered as unavoidable at many hospitals in which patients’ relatives are “assigned” as nurses and doctors and asked to replace IVs or put food into patients’ body through a tube.