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Health: Medical negligence

What can be done about it?

Kampala, Uganda | PATRICIA AKANKWATSA | Health professionals are ethically obliged to attend to someone presenting an emergency, says Dr. Apollo Odeke Epuwatt a Physician at Mulago hospital. But when someone comes to the hospital not presenting an emergency, it is up to the medical professionals to agree to attend to them or not. If they agree, they should make sure they do as required. But sometimes things go wrong, he adds.

In some of these cases, patients become victims of wrong diagnosis or treatment, including surgery. Such undesirable occurrences are termed as medical negligence which is the failure to provide medical, dental, or psychiatric care that is necessary to prevent or to treat serious physical or emotional injury or illness.

“Negligence here does not mean recklessness or rush acts, but rather that one had a duty of care and breached this duty,” says Epuwatt.

Dr. Mary Anne Apok the regulatory officer at Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council (UMDPC) says that although there are no specific statistics of medical negligence cases in Uganda, the UMDPC averagely records over 50 complaints against medical practitioners annually.

Apok says medical negligence comes in many forms; including misdiagnosis, maternity and delivery errors, pharmacy and medication administration errors, surgical errors and emergency room or anesthesia errors.

She says the most common ones in Uganda are maternity and delivery errors. This is where medical care providers make mistakes that could put at risk the life of the mother or baby or both, especially during delivery.

She also says although most of the casesof maternity and delivery errors come in from government hospitals, private hospitals also are complained about for negligence.

Some of the medical negligence can cause serious injury or even death. Take the case of Farida Kiconco.

Her trouble started while she was pregnant in Ntungamo district in Western Uganda and went for a routine antenatal checkup at Kabwohe Health Center IV. After a check-up, the medical worker told her she was HIV positive. Kiconco says the medical worker counseled her and immediately started her on antiretroviral drugs and Septrine.

But after taking the medicines, Kiconco noticed changes to her body. Her eyes became yellowish, her skin changed and parts of her body became swollen.

Kiconco and her husband went back to Kabwohe Health Center IV. She was given another HIV test and this time round, she tested negative. After the doctor on duty who she only identifies as Dr. Tusiime did the blood test and found Kiconco was HIV negative, he advised her stop taking ARVs. He referred her to Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital for further treatment. Mbarara Hospital also did tests and confirmed that Kiconco was HIV negative.

Kiconco is a victim of medical negligence.  She was misdiagnosed with HIV and was on ARVs for six years. Today, she unable to walk normally due to the side effects of the ARVs. She uses crutches.

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