In Summary
  • What is forthcoming is that a patient wrongly underwent brain surgery, putting him at risk of the delicate operation.

  • In medical parlance, an occurrence as the KNH one is known as a “never event” — meaning that such errors should never take place.

  • Improved perioperative care translates to systems — which means manpower and technology and other resources.

The past few weeks have seen a public indictment of the medical profession following a mix-up of patients in the surgical unit of the Kenyatta National Hospital.

I received antagonistic, grossly exaggerated and outrightly untruthful versions of the story with different themes and many hilarious WhatsApp memes in the usual Kenyan fashion of being judge, jury and executioner without knowing the facts of the case.

What is forthcoming is that a patient wrongly underwent brain surgery, putting him at risk of the delicate operation and subsequent interventions, while delaying treatment for the one meant to be operated on.

It is imperative that the concerned workers, whether medical or administrative, be held to account as per the law.

CHORUS OF HORROR

Initially, Kenyans were united in a chorus of horror and condemnation of the incident but the trajectory took a political and tribal tangent.

Never mind that when doctors went on strike to push for an improved healthcare system — leading to the jailing of union officials — this public did not elicit a similarly enthusiastic response towards the cause.

On the contrary, the medics were branded as selfish and truant to the Hippocratic Oath.

In the face of poor multidisciplinary relationships, underfunding, insufficient manpower with overwhelming burnout and lack of proper patient safety mechanisms, one wonders why there is so much surprise and furore at the case.

'NEVER EVENT'

In medical parlance, an occurrence as the KNH one is known as a “never event” — meaning that such errors should never take place — and is usually serious, largely preventable and of concern to both the public and healthcare providers. The term is, unfortunately, a misnomer because they actually do occur.

Such an event is, nonetheless, so rare that the “never event” list by The Leapfrog group actually includes wrong site surgery rather than wrong patient.

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