As cases of the Swine Flu pandemic are reported, the struggle to curb any further spread of the deadly H1N1 virus could now be compromised by an impending protest by medical doctors at King Faisal Hospital, over the sacking of their colleague, The New Times has learnt.
The emerging controversy at the hospital is closely linked to the first reported cases of swine flu in the country, which, if they had been handled well by hospital and health ministry officials, could have avoided further infections.
According to a source that preferred anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case, the sacking of Dr. Stephenson Musiime, who has been the head of the paediatric department, at the hospital, over what the hospital refers to as ‘neglect of duty’, has upset the hospital staff, who are threatening to stage a sit-in strike.
Musiime was dismissed on October 14 for the alleged “neglect of his duties and failure to professionally execute his obligations in his capacity as the head of the paediatric department” according to the sacking letter seen by The New Times.
According to the letter, the reason for his sacking is the failure by his staff to diagnose Influenza A or H1N1 on a child who had respiratory symptoms, allowing that child to pass on the virus to other people.
The decision by the Hospital Management to dismiss Musiime, however, did not go down well with the hospital’s Joint Clinical Services Executive Committee (JCSEC), which is now petitioning the Health Minister to intervene.
In a letter seen by The New Times copied to the President of the Republic of Rwanda and the Prime Minster among others, the JCSEC claims that Musiime’s sacking was ‘unfair’ as the medics ‘did all they could to treat the victim’ despite them not being aware of the possibility of the infection of the minor being related to H1N1.
The JCSEC argues that despite the doctors detecting a viral respiratory tract infection, there was no information given by the child’s family that would lead to the suspicion of H1N1 or information about the travel history of the child’s mother-which would have consequently alerted medics to take precautionary measures.
“A diagnosis of a viral respiratory tract infection was made and the patient was treated accordingly, with subsequent improvement and discharge two days after admission.
There was timely clinical care from admission to discharge,” the medics argue.
It is reported that after discharge, the child in question who had allegedly contracted the deadly flu from her mother, stayed home for 3 days before developing ‘flu symptoms’ again and she alongside the whole family later tested positive.
According to sources, after the medics questioned the mother of the child (names withheld) during a visit to her home, she revealed to a specialist paediatrician and pharmacist that during her visit to the United States, she interacted with people who were H1N1 positive.
Apparently upon her arrival, sources say, she alerted the Ministry of Health about strange signs and symptoms that were similar to those of Swine Flu.
In what appears as a case of negligence, she was instead told to go home and stay put until the next day.
However, without any precaution, she went on to interact with her children and family members-consequently infecting them.
To complete the cycle, the children went to school the next day, infecting other children.
Upon noticing the symptoms, the family went to seek medical attention at King Faisal Hospital but never alerted the unsuspecting medical staff who also contracted the disease and as per yesterday, there were 29 confirmed cases of Swine Flu in the country.
However, what riled the medical workers is what they call the ‘unfair’ dismissal of Musiime and contravenes the labour law which says that a person should be accorded a fair hearing before dismissal.
According to some of the workers at the hospital, the sacking of Musiime, known to be an influential figure with highly considered medical expertise at the hospital, could derail different projects in the paediatric department and that “motivation of the medical professionals at KFH has already been affected.”
The medics also say the infected family should be brought to book for failure to disclose vital information under the circumstances despite the mother of the child being “a person of such credible standing and intellectual calibre but could not help the medical staff in making the correct diagnosis.”
“Honourable Minister, we request that you review this unfortunate incident of unfair dismissal which has no substantial medical grounding, lacks judgement and the application of realistic penalties.” the letter is quoted.
When contacted, Dr. Juliet Mbabazi, the acting Chief Executive Officer of KFH, could not comment on the issue.
“There is a lot more involved in this case, I can’t comment on it at this time,” Mbabazi said over the phone.