Katutura hospital fingered in death of student

04 Feb 2015 14:20pm
By George Hendricks
WINDHOEK, 04 FEB (NAMPA) - Family members of a 24-year-old man are accusing State health officials for the death of their relative in the Katutura Inter-mediate Hospital.
Mathias Siputu Muhako, who was in his third year of studies at the University of Namibia (UNAM)’s Rundu Campus, died on 09 January 2015 in that hospital.
This was nine days after he was assaulted and shot in his upper-left thigh by his cousin during a scuffle at the deceased’s residence in Rundu.
A family spokesperson - who is also a health practitioner - Mathias Sipunga told Nampa that Muhako only received painkillers while in hospital, and was only referred to acute care at a later stage.
Sipunga lamented the lackadaisical attitude and lack of swift and prompt response from health personnel at that hospital, saying they could have averted the young man’s death.
Basic medical protocol which is normally availed to hospitalised patients was not followed, he stressed.
“Once my late nephew checked into the hospital, no medical assistance was rendered to him, except for painkillers, and he lay in distress for over a week, despite the nature of his condition,” he explained.
Upon investigation, this agency unearthed a serious breach of medical conduct and a high disregard for medical ethics.
Muhako was shot on 31 December 2014 in Rundu, and upon his arrival at the Katutura Intermediate Hospital, where he was transferred to on 02 January 2015, he was admitted to Ward 7B without any medical examination having been conducted by the doctor assigned to that ward.
Instead, student doctors attended to the deceased.
“On 05 January, during visiting hours, I discovered that my nephew was not treated with any antibiotics for his wound, and I raised my concerns with the matron of the hospital.
It is only thereafter that he received antibiotic treatment and a Heparin drip on 06 January,” Sipunga narrated.
A Heparin drip is a blood-thinner administered to a victim suffering from a medical condition known as an Embolism - a blood clot which forms around a wounded body part which is stationary for a long time.
Clots generally affect the arms, legs, or feet; and a single clot can cause more than one embolism as pieces may break free and get stuck in other parts of the body.
The blood clot can travel through one’s arteries and become stuck in body organs, including vital organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys, and consequently result in organ failure and ultimately death.
Such is the severity of this condition that a victim has to be treated as a matter of urgency to avert permanent damage and even death.
Sipunga added that a nephrologist attended to Muhako on 08 January, and established the need for the patient to undergo kidney dialysis.
However, the young man passed away on 09 January at about 01h00.
“His death leaves the family in shock and dismay. We just cannot understand what led to his death, especially since it was a gunshot wound to the left leg, which left no bullet residue nor fragments,” Sipunga added.
Procedurally, after the death of a victim, a post-mortem examination is conducted to establish the cause of death, and this report is shared with family members.
Sipunga said the family was denied that post-mortem report for reasons unknown to them, even after several attempts to obtain one.
It was only issued with the death certificate, which states 'Gunshot' as the cause of death.
Relatives are not convinced by the cause of death stated on the death certificate.
“It makes no sense. A considerable amount of time had lapsed for a gunshot to be the cause of death.
Had he died immediately on the spot, then we could agree with the gunshot being the cause of death. Instead, negligence and ultimately lack of professionalism resulted in the death of the young man,” he charged.
The Office of the Registrar of the Health Professions’ Council of Namibia (HPCN) on 22 January declined to comment on the allegations.
“I cannot respond to any of the allegations as this case has not been reported to my office,” Crispen Mafwila, Senior Manager of Health Professions at the institution, told this reporter.
Usually, the HPCN would only investigate a case if the family members report it, or if the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) institute an investigation into the matter.
Sipunga said they are busy drafting a letter to the HPCN, adding that they intend to take legal steps against the State.
Also approached for comment, the Health Ministry's spokesperson Ester Paulus said she was not aware of that particular case.
She told Nampa on Wednesday that family members should report their grievances with the Customer Care Centre at that hospital, or to the HPCN.
Paulus added that the superintendent of that hospital will then investigate, and if negligence was found, he/she will refer the matter to the Permanent Secretary of the line ministry, who will then ask the HPCN to probe the case.
“If a health official is found guilty, he/she will be suspended for a certain period of time,” she noted, without specifying the exact period.
Meanwhile, the shooting suspect was due to appear in the Rundu Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.
The charge is not yet known.