Court awards Sh9 million for woman who died in bungled check-up

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board struggles to rein in wayward doctors
By ISAIAH LUCHELI

Nairobi, Kenya: A healthy, expectant mum walked into Nairobi Women’s Hospital for a routine check-up.

Hours later, her lifeless body was in the morgue following a C-Section birth. The newborn bundle of joy died soon after as a distraught man mourned the loss of a wife and child.

The surgery caused massive blood loss, which led to the death of Lucy Njoki Kithaka. A doctor said that in all his years of practice, he had never seen such an incident.

Hours before she died, Lucy, 29, asked her husband, Silas Mugendi Nguru, to pray for her after the induced labour pains intensified. As she lay on the hospital bed, the couple communicated via a mobile phone till late into the night, until her cellphone battery charge went flat.

It was the last time he would hear her voice.

Now, a court has ordered the hospital to pay the heartbroken man more than Sh9 million after it was found that the doctors were negligent and did too little to save her life.

She was a senior officer at Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

It is a heart-wrenching case that demonstrates how negligence by practicing doctors has caused families deep pain, even as Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board struggles to rein in wayward doctors.

Friday, Lucy’s grieving husband told The Standard he was not yet ready to comment on the loss of his beloved wife.

The sheer rate of bungling medics is exemplified by the fact that in just four months, the board has received 41 complaints against doctors, according to its CEO Mr Daniel Yumbya.

In his ruling last week, Justice Hatari Waweru said that the hospital’s CEO Dr Sam Nthenya had told Nguru that, “The doctor in charge could not justify the cause of death, adding that in his long practice as a gynaecologist, he had not come across such an incident.”

The ruling followed a case filed by Nguru after his wife’s death on January 7, 2012. The hospital did not defend itself against his claims.

The judge ordered the hospital to compensate Nguru for pain suffered due to the loss of his late wife, loss of expectation of life, lost years and special damages.

But Friday, Nairobi Women’s Hospital said it did not get a chance to present the full facts of the case.

“As a healthcare institution, we value life and as such always strive to preserve it. We are of the opinion that the case had no medical merit but we did not get an opportunity to present the full facts,” the hospital said in an e-mail message to The Standard on Saturday.

The statement said the hospital delivers over 200 mothers per month with positive outcomes.

“Every day over 500 people walk through our doors seeking medical treatment. Our teams of qualified medical practitioners always strive to provide the best medical care”.

While determining the amount to pay, Justice Waweru said, “Those particulars are that the defendant made extensive and unnecessary cervical lacerations to the deceased; that it failed to diagnose the cause of excessive bleeding of the deceased; that it failed to take immediate action to stop the excessive bleeding; and that it failed to follow the laid-down medical procedure and thereby caused the deceased’s death.”

Post-mortem report

The findings were based on a post-mortem report prepared by Chief Government Pathologist Moses Njue, who found that cuts made in Lucy’s womb were not necessary.

According to court filings, Nguru was in a jovial mood as he drove his wife Lucy to the hospital for her prenatal check-up. Little did he know that would be the last time to see his wife alive.

Nguru, who was expecting their first child, was upbeat and even enjoyed a meal with his wife at the ward and kept in touch with her on phone up to late in the night before her phone went off due to lack of charge at around 10.30pm.

The doctor who examined his wife found that she had exceeded her due date by 10 days and yet she did not have any sign of labour.

The examination further indicated that her blood pressure and weight were in perfect condition.

The doctor explained to the couple that it was the hospital policy that an expectant mother who has exceeded her due date by 10 days should be induced to prevent the baby from starving.

Nguru told the court that in the process of her admission it was discovered that her pre-natal file was missing and the registry staff were instructed to find it.

It was later found and she was admitted to a semi-private ward.

At around 2pm she was given medication to soften the cervix and at around 4pm a nurse checked the baby’s heart beat and confirmed it was okay,” Nguru submitted.

At 8pm, Nguru was asked to leave the hospital and return the following morning after the nurse confirmed to him that baby’s heartbeat was fine.

“At 10.30pm Lucy started feeling mild labour pains and was very excited since she had longed for the experience. An hour later she started experiencing intense pains and requested me to pray for her. Later on her phone went off,” recalled Nguru.

The following day when he went to the hospital he found his wife had been taken to the theatre and after waiting for over an hour he insisted that he goes to the theatre.

In the theatre, he recalled, he was told that the anaesthesia reversal process had failed to take place.

He was also told by the doctors that they had also reopened her womb and that her blood pressure was low due to heavy bleeding.

Nguru was informed that the doctors had an option of removing the uterus to stop the bleeding but since it was her first baby they would try as much as they could to save it.

“At around 11am, I left the theatre and the surgeons attending to Lucy advised me to call some friends and relatives to keep me company, which was a clear indication that all was not well,” he recalled.

– Additional reporting by Lillian Aluanga

Register to advertise your products & services on our classifieds website Digger.co.ke and enjoy one month subscription free of charge and 3 free ads on the Standard newspaper.

Nairobi Women Hospital Dcotors negligence child birth Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board