According to gynecologists at Brussels AZ VUB and Ghent University Hospital (UZ), more and more Muslims refuse to have a male gynecologist deliver their children. The Flemish Association of Gynecologists argues for a stricter approach in all hospitals.
Many Flemish gynecologists can tell stories of gynecologists who directed a birth behind the door or fathers who go after doctors.
Luc Gerguts is head of the Gynecology departments in the Geel Sint-Dimpna hospital. In the recent doctor's magazine he tells how he was recently restrained by a Muslim father during a risky birth. The situation was serious: the mother already had gone through two stillbirths. When the father refused to yield, Verguts finally gave up and called in two experienced midwives. Verguts himself took position behind the door to help from afar.
The conflict in Geel in not a solitary case, according to inquiry by various hospitals. The phenomenon is known especially in cities with a large immigrant population. "We don't understand why but the problem has become more acute in recent years," says Elke Fleurs head of the clinic of obstetrics at AZ VUB. "As a rule we try not to give in. Certainly in emergency cases we usually take control of the situation. I remember a father in a multiple birth who would not yield. Only when i said: 'Then your babies will die', did he come round." Fleurs emphasizes that not all Muslims have problems with male gynecologists.
Ghent UZ also gets more and more obstinate Muslims fathers. "Daily we see people who specially ask for a female doctor," explains Marleen Temmerman, head of service. "During the day we can mostly respect that, the gynecology profession is after all becoming more and more female. But during the night it doesn't always work out. About once a month that leads to a serious conflict." She says that sometimes the fathers have to be manhandled away.
Temmerman somewhat understands the conflicts. "The decision to go through with a man is often taken at a moment when there isn't a lot of time to explain everything peacefully." Temmerman says that especially newcomers to Belgium remain inflexible.
Flanders is not the only region dealing with the problem. The national Order of Physicians discussed the growing problem in France and the UK regarding the choice of doctors.
The Flemish Association for Obstetrics and Gynecology (VVOG) is aware of the problem and asks for a stricter attitude. "In my own hospital every patient that absolutely insists on a woman is dismissed from the hospital," explain Johan Van Wiemeersch, head of Sint-Augustinus in Wilrijk (Antwerp). "As a gynecologist association we ask for the same strict rules in all maternity wards. In our own hospital we used to be more flexible, but then female gynecologists had to be called out of bed to come in. That's not acceptable." The stricter approach in Sint-Augustinus can't always prevent emergencies and related conflicts. Van Wiemeersch remembers how a father attacked the doctors when they came to his wife.
The Gasthuisberg hospital in Louvain is set up to be more accommodating. The problem here is also less acute than in cities where there are more immigrants, explains Bernard Spitz, department head of obstetrics. He adds that there's a real problem when patients ask for a male doctor, since there are less of them.
Source: De Morgen (Dutch)
See also: Netherlands: Muslim women and health care , Netherlands: Health care not a problem with Muslim women,