A 31-year-old woman diagnosed with pneumonia has died on the sea ambulance en route to Malé on Sunday night.
Fathimath Naeem of Faafu Atoll Nilandhoo Island died at 10:30, approximately 30 minutes after a sea ambulance left Nilandhoo, the island’s council has said.
Fathimath is survived by her husband and a five-year-old daughter.
A pregnant woman also gave birth on a Nilandhoo street while waiting for the same sea ambulance, the council said. Both the mother and child are in good health, the Faafu Atoll Nilandhoo Hospital has said.
President Abdulla Yameen’s administration introduced sea ambulance services in May to provide emergency transportation from all inhabited islands in the country.
There are no sea ambulances stationed at Faafu Atoll and the atoll’s islands use neighboring Dhaal Atoll’s speedboat. According to the island council, the hospital had called for a sea ambulance at midday, but the speedboat only arrived at 10pm.
According to Nilandhoo Council President Ahmed Ali, health services at Faafu Atoll Hospital are poor. He also said pregnant women routinely go to Malé to give birth, as there are no gynecologists, surgeons or anesthetists at the hospital.
The sea ambulance incident is the latest in a series of service failures in recent weeks.
The Health Ministry appealed to island councils to refrain from criticising health services, claiming councils were spreading false information in the media.
The ministry said such claims lead to a loss in confidence in health services and said it did not have the required budgetary support to buy new equipment and renovate health posts.
On Saturday, northern Haa Dhaal Atoll Kulhudhuffushi islanders held a protest over deteriorated healthcare conditions in the region.
The Haa Dhaal council released a statement expressing concern over “comatose” health services and condemned a severe lack of doctors, equipment and facilities at the regional hospital.
The council said a woman had to be flown to Malé to sew up a cut to the vagina during childbirth and an infant suffered damages to the head during a caesarean.
“The council calls on the Ministry of Health and all relevant authorities to recruit two more gynecologists, a physician, a cardiologist, ultra sound scanning machine, an x-ray machine, 4 ECD machines, two fetal Doppler and adequate supplies for and facilities in the twelve health centers in Haa Dhaal Atoll,” the statement read.
In response, Shakeela told regional newspaper Kulhudhuffushi Online work is underway to improve regional health facilities and said the ministry is recruiting doctors to staff regional hospitals.
The Health Ministry is also in the process of purchasing a new x-ray machine and laboratory equipment for the Kulhudhuffushi hospital, she said. But the process will take time, as equipment is imported from abroad, she added.
The government in May announced it is seeking 225 additional doctors, and said it will place 91 medial officers in health centers across the country.
On June 3, councilors of the southern Fuvahmulah Island held a press conference blasting Health Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela for “worsening conditions” at the hospital after a case of stillbirth and the death of a soldier on the island.
In February, the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Malé transfused HIV positive blood to a patient due to an alleged technical error.