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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Saturday, 18 November 2017 00:00

I can’t afford it!

Written by  Siah Siew Chew, Tan Siew Chern & Lim Li Tian, Tawau / Translated by Ong Mooi Lin

Seventeen-year-old Robiana (right), who was nine-months pregnant, had her first antenatal examination at the free clinic. As some abnormalities were detected in the ultrasound scan, the doctor advised her to get a thorough examination at the hospital. [Photograph by Lim Su Nguan]

The burden of medical expenses, risk of being detained by law enforcement officers and a lack of birth-control awareness, have led the pregnant women to go without prenatal examinations and resort to home birth.


On November 19 afternoon, 17-year-old Robiana arrived at the Obstetrics & Gynaecology division to receive her first antenatal examination in nine months. As the ultrasound scan showed some abnormalities, the attending Gynaecologist, Dr Ow Yeang Khang May, suggested that she goes to the hospital for a thorough check-up.

Robiana was at a loss upon hearing that, and her mother, who accompanied her to the free clinic, was so worried that she shed her tears. Seeing that, volunteers quickly comforted her and tried to ease her mind.

Robiana is staying with her parents. Her father and spouse make a living by selling salted fish for others. In July 2017, her spouse was detained by law enforcement authority due to undocumented status. When asked where she planned to deliver her baby, she shrugged with a helpless remark, “At home with a midwife’s help. We cannot afford the burdensome fees to deliver the baby at the hospital.”

After the examination, a nurse, Lin Xiu Fang, who serves at Tawau Specialist Hospital, and a few volunteers, accompanied Robiana to a hospital. It was a relief to find out that everything was fine after a thorough check-up. However, the doctor advised Robiana to visit the hospital for induced labour if she felt that the foetus has become less active.

The idea of having her labour at the hospital did not appeal to Robiana. She expressed, “Tak mampu! (Can’t afford it!) The costs are too high for us to afford. The midwife will help me with the labour.” Her mother concurred, “Tak mampu! (Can’t afford it!)”

It saddened the volunteers to learn of their predicament. Xiu Fang said with empathy, “Actually they understand that the longer they procrastinate, the higher the risk, but due to poverty, they could only accept life as it is.” There are many similar cases like Robiana among the villagers. They get married at a young age, do not take birth control, give birth one after another, and do not go for antenatal examination.

The medical team may not be able to solve the patients’ problems altogether, but they had at least eased their physical and mental suffering. To quote the Master, “Our purpose of life is to serve and benefit others. In this way, our life will be valuable.”

 

 

Lin Xiu Fang (right) is a nurse with Tawau Specialist Hospital. She volunteered her services at the free clinic and accompanied Robiana to a hospital for further examination. [Photograph by Tia Yee Ling]  

Lin Xiu Fang (right) is a nurse with Tawau Specialist Hospital. She volunteered her services at the free clinic and accompanied Robiana to a hospital for further examination. [Photograph by Tia Yee Ling]