Medical negligence explained
Dr. Ekwaro Obuku, the president of Uganda Medical Association (UMA) says that medical negligence can be attributed to the medical professional, the medical institution, and the patient.
The part attributed to doctors or other medical staff often has to do with misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose.
“They may misread your symptoms, for example. They may write down the wrong medication or the wrong dose for a prescription,” Obuku says.
Obuku says there are some doctors who have bad conduct like they do not relate with patients well and this could lead to error.
“Sometimes they are inadequately trained and they do not try to update themselves with what is going on,” he says.
He also says that another common issue is a mistake during surgery, which can either damage other parts of your body or fail to treat the underlying condition. In other words;it is human error.
“Hospitals and other care centers can also be responsible for medical negligence. These issues usually arise due to failure to maintain equipment, failure to maintain a clean environment leading to dangerous infections or failing to adequately train doctors and other staff,” says Epuwatt.
He adds that Hospitals may also fail to put the necessary procedures and systems in place to make sure that every member of your care team has the information they need about you.
Underfunding and staffing of health facilities has led to incidences of medical negligence. This is attributes to the low ratio of medical professional to patients.
“This low ration has led medical professionals to work long hours and attend to high numbers of patients which subjects them to fatigue and prone to errors that may be regarded as negligent, says Epuwatt.
He says while doctors, as professionals operating in a very sensitive area, are expected to be very keen on their work, sometimes they are frustrated by the systems they work in. He says some referral hospitals and health centers are understaffed and poorly equipped.
Inadequate funding of health facilities to provide the minimum standards for health care services has led to incidence of death, injury and damage as a result of medical negligence.
Epuwatt says that although most of the medical negligence issues are blamed on medical professionals and institutions, sometimes it is the patients to blame.
“Some patients come to hospital after self-medicating themselves and it hard sometimes to detect what is wrong. This can cause effects once put on other medicines,” he says.
What can be done?
Epuwatt says that in most cases, medical negligence has been largely blamed on medical professionals but when you try to analyze it, the patients also play a big role in it.
He says that some patients hop from facility to facility leading to missed and delayed diagnosis or they even delay to seek medication. He, therefore, says that there is need to raise awareness in communities.
“Patients need to understand the purpose of explaining everything to their doctors. And self-medication should be taught against”, he says.
Obuku advises that the government and other people in charge should make sure the hospitals are well equipped and the staffing should be enough as well as motivated.
“Hospitals should have a well-equipped emergency unit with ambulances and the staff should be well paid,” he says.
Epuwatt says that there should be immediate disciplinary of negligent medical professionals. He says they should be suspended as this may be a lesson to others and they become more careful.