BY ALICE MWONGERA
Poor delivery of services in our public hospitals has been a reality that we have silently put up with.
The media may often highlight cases of medical malpractice meted on helpless patients in public hospitals, eliciting anger from the general public but with little action taken by the government to effectively resolve the cases highlighted.
Recently, the media has reported a number of deaths due to negligence by health institutions and practitioners, some of which would seem – even to a layman – as straight cases of negligence, yet no one has been charged many days later.
A case in point is the Kitui District Hospital incident, where a new mother died after a surgical towel was left in her womb following an operation.
The pathologists gave their findings and all the government said was they would investigate further and those responsible brought to book.
It has been almost a month and no feedback has been forth coming to the public.
The case of a 12-year-old girl who died at Kenyatta National Hospital in April after doctors allegedly dismissed her that she was pretending, elicited hue and cry from the public.
The Director of Medical Services assured the public that investigations would be carried out and culprits brought to book.
The silence has been deafening, almost five months later.
Thika Level 5 Hospital has been in the news this week with mysterious deaths of a number of babies.
All we have been treated to is the same story of investigations being done.
For how long will the public continue to be treated to this mockery? How many more must die before something radical is done?
The Ministry of Medical Services must immediately institute a mechanism for dealing and resolving patients’ grievances and complaints against Public Health Institutions and their staff.
In this same spirit these disputes must be made public and accountability and integrity publicly upheld in order to end impunity by medical professionals.
Medical professionals are a law unto themselves.
This means doctors have been venerated to positions where they cannot be held accountable for their actions and patients have little recourse in cases where they have suffered injustice in the hands of a medical/health practioner.
The Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board was established by the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act (1978) to look into cases of negligence and malpractices and to also ensure that the medical practitioners strictly adhere to the code of conduct and ethics by which they are governed.
It is sad, however, to note that since inception, the public knows very little about the work of this Board and majority has no faith in its ability to deal with the many cases of malpractices reported.
Many a time, the Board will only be heard when media and the public highlight cases of malpractices.
We are then treated to the usual rant of promises of investigations being done and culprits brought to book.
That is the last the public ever hears until another incident is reported. The findings of these investigations that are purportedly prosecuted are however not in the public domain.
The Board will argue that they are not allowed to publicise their findings. The board, under section 20 of the Act is allowed to de-register any practioner or cancel any license granted to any individual who has been found guilty of malpractices.
Laws are man-made and if they do not work in the interest of the public then they should be done away with.
It is time the public demands to know what this Board has achieved in its 30-plus years of existence.
The Medical Practitioners Act gives the Health Minister power to revoke or annul the appointment or nomination of any member of the Board or reconstitute it altogether.
Do the two Ministers in charge of health believe that this Board has lived to its mandate? The public should immediately demand to have a competent and independent Medical Panel/ committee that has authority to probe, prescribe and punish cases of medical malpractices!
(Alice Mwongera is the Chief Executive Officer, Morris Moses Foundation. www.morrismosesfoundation.org)