Chained to pain
When doctors misdiagnose cases
A boy given a wrong drug is struggling to retain his former self despite that the hospital that treated him has admitted its doctor’s error. THOMAS KACHERE writes.
It was a matter of life and death for two-year-old Inkosi Malihera, who lay helplessly on a hospital bed where his health kept deteriorating.
He could not eat or drink anything and his condition gravely threatened his life, according to a report by healthcare workers at referral Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre.
His parents are now demanding K20 million from Blantyre Adventist Hospital (BAH) where a wrong prescription was administered to little Inkosi.
In an interview with The Daily Times, the boy’s father, Siphiwe Malihera, said it all started on 16 January when the family took the boy to BAH for medical help after his persistent vomiting spurts.
Apparently, after a number of tests, a doctor at the facility prescribed drugs which, after being given to the boy, made him unconscious for a number of hours.
“One evening, we gave our child the drugs as advised but he ended up sleeping for hours without waking up. The following morning, he woke up and what we saw was shocking and disheartening,” Malihera says.
He adds that the child stopped talking and his tongue got swollen and filled his mouth after the medication.
This forced the family to take the boy to QECH where tests were conducted and it was discovered that the BAH prescription was not only wrong but also an overdose.
“At QECH, the boy tested negative for malaria and other infections. Then doctors there asked us about what kind of medication he had been given before at BAH. When we showed them the prescription, they were shocked and told us the child’s life was in grave danger,” Malihera said.
The medication that little Inkosi got, it turned out, was not for children. It was for violent mental patients.
Apparently, the hospital which had administered the drugs did not budge to any suggestions that a win-win agreement should be reached.
Lawyer representing Inkosi’s family, Chikondi Chijozi, confirmed that she had received the instruction for a lawsuit from the family and that she was looking into the details of the matter.
“Actually, the father of the boy came to me at the time the child was still at BAH where he was given wrong medication and got overdosed. At the moment, all I can say is that we are contemplating what kind of legal action we can take,” Chijozi says.
When contacted on the matter, BAH Chief Executive Officer referred us to their lawyer Tamando Chokotho who acknowledged that the incident was unfortunate.
“It was an isolated incident where a doctor at Blantyre Adventist Hospital was assisting a child who was vomiting and when she thought of the drugs to prescribe, she did her little research and chose a particular drug.
“Unfortunately, she misread part of how the drug should be administered and ended up administering an overdose. The hospital has not denied liability and has taken action against the doctor who is now no longer attending to patients,” Chokotho said.
He added that BAH has engaged the boy’s patients on the compensation issue.
Chokotho added that the family, through their lawyer, sent the hospital a huge bill of damages but that the hospital noted there was wide discrepancy between the case cited and what was being demanded.
Registrar of Medical Council of Malawi Richard Ndovie also confirmed to have received the complaint from Malihera’s family lawyer.
He added that cases are of both professional misconduct and medical negligence were so common that, at the moment, the council has about 35 complaints from the public against health practitioners and hospitals.
“Complaints may be dismissed or practitioners cautioned. They may also be suspended or asked to pay fines or costs of investigations. They may be deregistered or sent for remedial clinical attachment at a central hospital, among others,” Ndovie said.
He added that common complaints last year were on issues such as fake reports, infringement of patients’ privacy and confidentiality issues, medical negligence and maternity concerns.
Meanwhile, health rights activist Maziko Matemba has described the BAH incident as unfortunate.
“This issue needs more attention from the regulatory body which is MCM, to determine what really happened for the hospital to end up prescribing wrong medication to this two-year-old child.
“The medical profession is regulated by MCM and, so, the aggrieved party can lodge a complaint for follow-up. If it was oversight or negligence by the clinician or doctor, it will be able to write a report on it,” Matemba said.
Recently, there have been reports that some medical workers have been flouting the dictates of their profession by raping patients or prescribing wrong medicat ion to patients.
MCM has also been summoning some renowned doctors over negligence.