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The ethical conduct of employees in maternity wards at selected public hospitals in the Western Cape, South Africa
Maternity service in South Africa faces particular problems in the provision of care to birthing mothers. Violence and abuse have been reported and maternity death rates are high, being related to inadequate provision of care (Myburgh, 2007:29). Ethical conduct plays a significant role in service delivery in Midwife Obstetrics Units (MOU) in general. This is of particular importance since every patient, especially pregnant women, should to be handled with the utmost care, respect and dignity. The research problem emanates from nurses’ behaviour towards patients in MOU labour wards, where women continue to be victims of abuse. Ironically, it is regrettable that they are abused by those who are supposed to be their advocates. The objectives of the study were to assess if nurses in MOU labour wards conduct themselves ethically when dealing with patients, to determine the perceptions of patients towards nurses during child birth stages, as well as to examine factors in maternity wards that may influence a nurse’s performance when dealing with patients. The study adopted the quantitative research method to answer the research question and data interpretation was based on statistical analysis. This method was deemed to be the most effective for collection of a large quantity of data and numerical (quantifiable) data is considered objective. A Likert-type questionnaire comprising closed-ended questions was the measurement instrument. This was considered to least inconvenience nurses and postnatal patients to whom these questionnaires were administered. Answer choices were graded from 1 to 4, being strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree. The population comprised nurses and postnatal patients in MOUs in the Western Cape, South Africa. Consecutive sampling was conducted in two selected MOUs, being Michael Mapongwana (MM) and Gugulethu (GG), with 311 questionnaires being distributed to both nurses and postnatal Patients in these two facilities. The findings indicated that the ethical conduct of nurses in both MM and GG maternity wards was relatively good. However, some survey findings revealed some unsatisfactory gaps that exist in what both hospitals currently offer to patients in the areas of individual patient care, communication and baby security certainty. Furthermore, the findings indicated that a significant number of patients who chose to make use of MM and GG hospitals, are satisfied with the standard of service received during their stay. However, there were some discrepancies in terms of senior management service where excellence in the monitoring role emerged as being lacking. There is a need for improvement in the current levels of ethical conduct of nurses in both the MM and GG labour wards. These needs for improvement relate to working conditions, especially linked to the human resource (HR) function, leadership and management functions, and improved monitoring and control mechanisms.
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