“I SWEAR in the presence of the Almighty and before my family, my teachers and my peers that according to my ability and judgment I will keep this oath and stipulation …
I will treat without exception all who seek my ministrations, so long as the treatment of others is not compromised thereby, and I will seek the counsel of particularly skilled physicians where indicated for the benefit of my patient…
Into whatever patient setting I enter, I will go for the benefit of the sick and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief or corruption… but should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot.”- The Hippocratic Oath
The above oath is traditionally taken by doctors. It is a rite of passage for practitioners of medicine although it seems to have been forgotten by the medics of Kibagabaga Hospital.
Ann Mbabazi last Tuesday, faced a medical emergency when a medical assistant at the hospital told her that she could not see a doctor because she had no appointment. So coughing blood, sweating and weak she went back home.
She knew she had Tuberculosis (TB) because a friend had earlier taken her to a clinic in Rwamagana, where the nurses confirmed that the tests were TB positive.
Since the nurses upcountry had no authority to prescribe medication they referred her to Kibagabaga for treatment; which she could not get because she had no appointment!
Later that night, at 9:00 pm, she was rushed back in a critical condition, and luckily her friend’s pleading forced the doctors, at 11:00 pm, to notice that she was anemic. Ann was immediately put on blood transfusion (four pints to be exact).
These were the firstn steps taken by the doctors towards saving her life. Where had their ethics disappeared?
That same night an ambulance rushed into emergency area.
An expectant mother from Ndera Health Centre was experiencing labour pains and was in need of immediate attention. After a quick scan by a quack medical assistant, she was told cruelly that her baby was dead because a heartbeat could not be traced!
Even though the crying mother was scheduled for a Caesarian Section the following day, she had no medical insurance card.
She said that in July she had registered for insurance but she has to wait until next year to receive ‘mutuelle’ because she registered late. She was told to immediately pay Rwf30, 000 for consultation and treatment but she only had Rwf5,000. and that was that. She was denied treatment.
These are only two examples on one Tuesday but there are thousands more on other days.
This evidence speaks for itself. It strongly questions the essence of the Hippocratic Oath. It questions the ethics and compassion of all those who choose to save lives and are not doing so.
The Ministry of Health needs to asses and address the negligence in Kigali’s referral hospitals. Whether its poor pay, limited staff or a sheer lack of commitment, it’s time for doctors and nurses to review their Hippocratic Oath.
The author is a journalist The New Times.