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Doctors Perform Brain Surgery on Wrong Patient, Scandal Again Hits Kenya’s Largest Hospital

Once again, scandal hits Kenya’s top hospital, Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), after brain surgery was performed on the wrong person. The newest KNH scandal comes just weeks after KNH made news headlines with stories of a baby theft and accusations of personnel sexually assaulting patients.

KNH scandal, again.

A social media uproar followed soon after the details of the brain surgery emerged with many Kenyans expressing outrage. Many were agitated as the news came just as the dust settled on a previous scandal that had hit the hospital a few weeks earlier. During that time the hospital had dominated the news after a two week old baby was stolen from within the hospital. The baby was eventually found unharmed.

Towards the end of 2017, the hospital was plagued by yet another scandal following a patient’s accusation on social media of attempted rape in the hospital’s corridors and lifts at night.

Brain surgery on the wrong patient.

The discovery of the brain surgery error came from an investigation by the Daily Nation newspaper which revealed that two men had been booked for head surgery in the hospital. One was suffering from head swelling while the other needed a blood clot removed from his brain. Hours into the surgery, the surgeons realized that there was no blood clot and that in fact they were operating on the wrong patient. Both patients are reported to be alive and recovering.

Hospital’s management suspended the surgeon as well as two nurses and an anesthetist who were all involved in the surgery after news of the KNH scandal broke. The four were suspended to pave way for an investigation into the operation.

Kenya’s health minister, Sicily Kariuki, suspended the hospital’s CEO, Lily Koros. According to Kariuki, the many scandals plaguing the hospital were signs of ineffective leadership.

KNH staff go on strike.

The suspension of the KNH neurosurgeon triggered a strike by his KNH colleagues. More than 700 registrars in the hospital are protesting what they called ‘discrimination of their colleagues’.

The hospital staff met with the Kenya Medical Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) which then demanded for the immediate reinstatement of their suspended members. Ouma Oluga, the Secretary General of the board said,

“We have deliberated on the suspension of the neurosurgeons. We call on the KNH board to reinstate them unconditionally. Over 700 registrars working at KNH will no longer offer services until issues are sorted out. We demand a total overhaul of the entire KNH system.”

A handful of politicians have added to the drama by threatening the health minister with impeachment.

Healthcare struggles in Kenya.

The unfortunate incident at Kenyatta National Hospital, which also doubles as a teaching hospital underscores the troubling state of health affairs in Kenya. In 2016, an audit revealed Kshs 5 billion (US$ 50 million) in tax payer money was lost to an apparent financial scam in the Ministry of Health and which was never recovered.

Shortly after the financial scandal, doctors in Kenya went on strike demanding better pay, improved working conditions and for the government to honor a deal signed in 2013. The strike lasted for a 100 days and paralyzed the healthcare system in Kenya. Matters were not made any easier as nurses later went on a strike which lasted for more than 150 days.

The brain surgery and KNH scandal happened just days before US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson toured the country and subsequently was taken ill. Tillerson had to cancel events in Kenya until he regained full strength. Tillerson was then fired by Trump early Tuesday morning. Trump made an announcement via his Twitter account.


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Alex Muiruri

Alex is a passionate writer born and raised in Kenya. He is professionally trained as a public health officer but loves writing more. When not writing, he enjoys reading, doing charity work and spending time with friends and family. He is also a crazy pianist!

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