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Impose tough penalties to deter negligence in medical facilities

By The Standard | Published Sat, March 3rd 2018 at 00:00, Updated March 2nd 2018 at 23:50 GMT +3

A brain surgery carried out on a wrong patient at Kenyatta National Hospital has lifted the lid on the extent of professional negligence in health facilities. In a shocking patient mix-up at the country’s largest referral facility, a man was wheeled into the theatre, had his skull opened up only for the neurosurgeon to discover he wasn’t the right patient who had a blood clot in the brain.

The blunder, detected hours later, has raised tough questions on KNH’s pre-surgery procedures. It also led to the suspension of hospital CEO Lilly Koros. Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said the KNH board would pronounce itself on the matter this morning.

There have been other questionable occurrences at the facility. On November 29, 2015, a cancer patient was bludgeoned to death in the wards. And in January this year, there was outrage over rape claims by new mothers against hospital staff. Two weeks ago, the management was hard-pressed to explain how a baby had been stolen from the facility. Unfortunately, KNH is not the only hospital whose ethos have continuously been questioned. In July 2015, the nation was dazed when 30 children from Busia County were nearly paralysed after getting a wrong jab at Akichelesit Dispensary in Teso North.

We believe it’s time to call out the medical regulatory agencies to address this blot on the health system. Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board should ensure no one gets away with professional misconduct. Hospitals have to invest in reliable patient identification procedures and address lack of enthusiasm among staff that could lead to lethargy.

When a patient is subjected to suffering due to avoidable mistakes, we betray the very reason a hospital should exist. But again, when we fail to take retributive actions against culprits, we entrench carelessness. In the wake of worrying surgical mistakes in Africa, WHO developed a safety checklist for surgeries. Unfortunately, these guidelines have been unheeded. Someone has to take responsibility.

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