Kenya: A Father's Agony After Son Dies in 'Negligence' Case

19 January 2021

Frankline Osino Rawago aspired to become one of the best advocates in Kenya. To achieve that dream, he had worked hard and joined the Bachelor of Law programme at the University of Nairobi's Parklands campus.

But the second-year student's career dream was cut in midflight after an agonising 19 days in and out of hospital in what his parents now claim was medical negligence by Nairobi Women's Hospital.

Crucial test results that could have helped save Frankline's life were only made available a day before he died, something his parents now regard as a professional blunder by the healthcare workers that were entrusted to save his life.

The 19-year-old football buff was an Arsenal supporter and fond of German international Mesut Ozil, at least according to his social media profile.

On March 15, 2018, Frankline complained of persistent chest pains and fever.

His parents rushed him to Nairobi Women's Hospital branch in Kitengela, Kajiado County, for treatment.

Dr Lewis Njagi recommended that Frankline be admitted for further investigation into what was ailing the student.

For 10 days, doctors examined Frankline and drew blood and bone marrow samples for testing.

Among the ailments suspected to have been causing the chest pains and fever was H Pylori.

Haemoglobin count

The student was discharged on March 25, 2018 and asked to return for his test results four days later. The results for the test are usually out within a maximum of three days.

At the time, his haemoglobin count was 9.4 grammes per decilitre.

Haemoglobin is a protein in the red blood cells. Its main function is to carry oxygen throughout the body.

For healthy men, the haemoglobin count ranges between 13.5 and 17.5 grammes per decilitre of blood.

In women, it ranges between 12.0 and 15.5 grammes per decilitre of blood.

This means that Frankline's haemoglobin count was low.

After four days, he went back to Nairobi Women's, Kitengela, but was told to go back home and wait for a call from the hospital once the test results were ready.

On March 31, 2018, Frankline's condition worsened and his parents took him back to the hospital.

His haemoglobin count had now dropped to 7.5 grammes per decilitre of blood.

A decision was reached to readmit Frankline, but this time at Nairobi Women's Hospital's main branch in Hurlingham, Nairobi County.

Frankline also needed a blood transfusion, but Nairobi Women's Hurlingham's had no blood compatible with the student's in its bank.

His parents sought the assistance of blood donors. The first transfusion was done two days later.

Four days after being readmitted, the hospital's Kitengela branch was yet to release test results for the blood and bone marrow samples drawn when Frankline first sought medical assistance.

It was then that Frankline's parents were informed that the test results had been misplaced.

His father, Mr Vincent Rawago, requested that fresh samples be drawn and the tests done.

But doctors were of the opinion that the process of drawing samples, especially the bone marrow, would be too excruciating for Frankline.

On April 4, 2018, Frankline's condition had deteriorated further. He was bleeding from the mouth and other cavities.

Bleeding

Things got worse and he started convulsing on April 11, 2018 and had to be transferred to the High Dependency Unit (HDU).

At the HDU, he was still bleeding from his cavities.

Further deterioration saw him being transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

A day after being admitted to the ICU, Frankline's parents requested that an independent haematologist be consulted.

Nairobi Women's agreed to the request. The haematologist arrived and used Nairobi Women's facilities to run a test that revealed Frankline had cancer of the blood cells, better known as Leukaemia.

The independent specialist was able to make the diagnosis within 30 minutes of taking samples from Frankline.

A day after the diagnosis, Frankline died in the ICU.

"The haematologist confirmed the diagnosis within 30 minutes of taking the samples at Nairobi Women's Hospital's laboratory. In the doctor's opinion, had tests, including total blood count and peripheral blood film been taken earlier on admission, the hospital would have been able to reach the right diagnosis and the deceased referred to the relevant specialists or put on the right medication.

"It is my belief that my son died due to negligence on the part of the hospital, and as such we should be compensated as parents. The deceased was a second-year law student at the University of Nairobi, Faculty of Law and his chances of becoming a lawyer after completing his studies were brought to an abrupt end due to the negligence of the hospital," Mr Rawago says in court papers.

Last year, Mr Rawago filed a case in the High Court seeking to have Nairobi Women's Hospital declared liable for his son's death through medical negligence.

Initially, Mr Rawago had filed a complaint against Nairobi Women's Hospital on May 22, 2018 at the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB).

It was the 22nd negligence complaint filed at the KMPDB in 2018.

KMPDB wrote to Nairobi Women's Hospital on May 23, 2018, informing the facility of the complaint and asking for a response and supporting documents.

Frankline's patient file, detailed statements of personnel that handled him in the 19-day period and any other relevant documents were some of the items on the KMPDB's list of demands.

Nairobi Women's had not responded to the complaint a year later, and KMPDB CEO, Dr Daniel Yumbya, wrote to the institution warning it that the case would proceed with or without a response.

"We have noted with concern that you have refused and/or failed to respond to the above-mentioned letters despite repeated attempts to have you do so.

Covid-19 pandemic

"... You are hereby notified that due to your persistent non-response to directions from the Board, the Preliminary Inquiry Committee shall proceed with summarily determining the matter in your absence and without further reference to you. In addition, do note that failing to respond to directions by the committee amounts to an act of professional misconduct," Dr Yumbya said in the May 17, 2019 letter.

The matter has never been heard to date.

Nairobi Women's filed a response with the board in 2019, but the matter has never been heard.

When we called Dr Yumbya yesterday, he said the matter has been scheduled for hearing on February 19, 2021.

Dr Yumbya said three days after he informed Nairobi Women's of the intention to proceed with the case in absence of a response, the hospital wrote back stating that it had not received the KMPDB's earlier communication.

Nairobi Women's filed its response on May 24, 2019.

And while the KMPDB says it sent a copy of the response to Mr Rawago, he says he has never received any document or communication from the regulator in that regard.

Dr Yumbya blamed the delay in hearing the matter on the Covid-19 pandemic, arguing that the KMPDB Council, which receives complaints, did not sit much last year and that many hearings did not proceed.

"The council's legal department is always available to inform and to clarify on the status of any complaint filed at the council. In this particular case, the complainant called to inquire about his case, and he was informed that the file was under review in preparation for tabling before the committee. When he expressed concern that he had not received the documents filed by the hospital, he was assured that the documents would be sent to him," Dr Yumbya said.

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