22 January 2013

Kenya: Mbita Family Calls for Justice From Hospital

A family in Mbita is demanding for justice following the death of its kinsman in what it has described as professional negligence.

A clinical officer intern at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Bernard Mugawe succumbed to hepatitis B and died on January 1 in unclear circumstances that have sparked a war of words between his family and the MTRH management.

A distraught father to the deceased, Sephin Mugawe is now demanding for his son's health records, which were confiscated and are being held by the hospital management, to ascertain when and how he contracted the deadly disease.

"I need to access the documents from the hospital so that I can trace the time when he started ailing. They are claiming that he went there while sick, and yet I know that it is a lie," Mugawe said.

He lamented at the hospital's inaction and lack of support following the attack that is reported to have lasted for three months between October and December, yet MTRH asserts that Bernard had hepatitis B at the time of admission early last year.

Medical experts, including the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union chairman, Victor Ng'ani and the head of Preventable Disease at the ministry of Health, Willis Akhwale have appealed for caution into the matter.

"We cannot rule out the deceased having contracted the disease while on duty, due to direct contact with blood from a victim who may have been suffering from the disease," Ng'ani said and called for speedy investigation into the claim.

He regretted the slow pace of reforms in public health facilities, and blamed the government for subjecting workers to poor working conditions that continue to expose them to risks.

According the World Health Organisation, hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.

The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person and is believed to be 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.

"There is a vaccine for hepatitis B, and every health worker must be vaccinated against it," Akhwale said, adding that getting to the root of the MTRH case will be a challenge.

The experts say that the disease cannot stay in the body for over three months without symptoms being detected.

The Union of Kenya Clinical Officers vice chairman, Patrick Wachira says following the mysterious death, his team conducted tests on Bernard's wife to establish his status: "We are aware that this disease is also sexually transmitted, yet his wife tested negative."

According to Bernard's colleague, Jack Odhiambo who just cleared his internship at the Eldoret based referral hospital, the deceased's hospital file indicated that he may have contracted hepatitis B between July and October last year.

"The hospital refused to take responsibility and even refused to attend to him when he was admitted there," Odhiambo said, adding that the management instead alleged that Bernard had chronic hepatitis B and that he had been admitted to the facility with it.

His sentiments were echoed by the family which said that it shouldered the entire burden of treatment, transportation of the body from Eldoret and the eventual burial in Mfangano Island, with the help of friends.

"Some two friends made frantic efforts to contact the management, hoping that it could be of help, however they reported back two days later that it had declined to take charge or offer any form of support," said Mugawe.

Efforts to get a response from the hospital management were futile; however, the deputy director who is reported to have handled Bernard's case, Wilson Aruasa declined to comment on the matter. He instead sent a text message saying that he addressed the issue with the media when the patient died.

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