A 42-year-old Abdul-Moomin Suweiba delivered a baby boy at KATH on 5th February this year. The woman claims her baby boy was born alive but KATH counterclaims that the baby was stillborn.
With no option left, Suweiba’s family ‘accepted’ the hospital’s claim but now demanded the corpse for a befitting Islamic burial. And here the problems begin.
The nurses and midwives on duty at the time of Suweiba’s delivery further claim that the body was mistakenly incinerated alongside other medical thrash. This claim, however, stood unsubstantiated. Baba Asibi, the labourer operating the incinerator, stated emphatically that he never used the incinerator five days before the said day and three days after that day. Mr Asibi repeated this statement when he was sent to a police station in Kumasi. To-date, he maintained that he never burnt any medical thrash on that day let alone including a baby. KATH authorities confirmed the non-use of the incinerator during the said period.
Despite the above, the Ministry of Health (MoH) supports the claim of KATH that the baby was stillborn and that its body has since been incinerated. In its one-sided and bias report, the MoH stated explicitly that Madam Suweiba was maltreated by the nurses, midwives and doctor. Notably, she loss 400 ml of blood but was asked to walk to a lift instead of being transported on a trolley. On the way, she collapsed onto the floor and God resuscitated her.
Although the maltreatments amount to crime against humanity, Ms Sherry Ayittey’s Ministry thinks that they merely violated medical ethics. Accordingly, she commissioned yet other needless committees from the Dental and Medical Council (DMC), and the Nurses and Midwifery Council (NMC) to investigate the matter further. As expected, the committees missed the 15th April deadline and are still alleged to be working till today.
Establishing and commissioning committees by the MoH to look into misconducts within the Ministry is now becoming unbecoming. I refer readers to another incident in Accra where a man lost his wife and accused the hospital of negligence. Here too, the committee investigating the matter apologized to the man for the hospital’s keeping his struggling wife on the bare floor just moments before her death, but the hospital counterclaimed that her health condition dictated so. Who is telling the truth—the committee or the hospital?
The unbecoming nature of the investigating committees of the MoH is premised on two reasons. First, it is not only the MoH that comprises professionals who are capable of resolving disputes. Second, some disputes are criminal in nature and can only be settled in a law court. I use my profession—teaching—as an example. Teachers are under the Ministry of Education. When a teacher canes or rapes a pupil, does the Education Ministry intervene and take the matter from the parents of the pupil? The answer is NO! The public can remember a number of such cases at court and it is only when the affected parents agree that school authorities intervene.
The MoH’s intervention in the KATH missing baby saga, which is neither in the interest of Suweiba’s family nor that of the public, shows that the Minister has a personal interests. In addition, the MoH is complicating the matter. Apart from unnecessarily prolonging the saga thus far, any findings of any of the committees are non-binding. For example, Mr Baba Asibi, who the nurses and midwives claim incinerated the baby refused to appear before the committees. His lawyer advised him to abstain because he (Mr Asibi) is already before a Kumasi-based court on the same case.
Mr Asibi’s absence was greatly felt by the committee per the news report (see Suweiba’s baby was burnt by labourer- KATH midwives @ ghanaweb 24/04/2014). On the said day of sitting, the nurses and midwives who insisted that the baby was mistakenly incinerated were reminded that Mr Asibi denied incinerating any medical thrash. But what did the nurses and midwives have to say again? Mr Asibi’s presence could have brought the difference! His absence also meant that if the committee made any findings against him, such findings will be non-binding. Effectively, the committees are just wasting time and other national resources.
The consequence of Ms Ayittey’s gimmicking is that the case is now being investigated by two independently non-coordinating bodies: the police and the court at Kumasi, and the non-biting committees. Which of these bodies will come out with a verdict that is final and acceptable to all parties? And when? Already the Ayittey’s committees, as we know from the onset, are directed to cook evidence to support that the baby was stillborn and incinerated.
The end result is that whatever the findings of these committees may be, the case may still proceed to a law court. I have argued that the best MoH could have done from the beginning was to arraign KATH before court. By now, this issue would have been solved. Although delaying justice amounts to denying it, this missing baby saga can travel for a 100 years but the truth shall prevail (in God’s name, Amen!).
Another evidence that KATH is lying about the baby’s incineration is that it (KATH) failed to conduct a DNA test on the ashes from the incinerator. It will interest readers to note that Suweiba’s family demanded the corpse immediately after they were told of the ‘death’. And this is supposedly the same day KATH claim the body was incinerated. KATH could have straight away traced the ashes to wherever they were sent. A simple DNA test on the ashes would confirm that indeed Suweiba’s baby was cremated. The public is not aware of this advancement in medical technology, but KATH is aware and fully equipped to have done that. KATH is simply lying; the baby was sold.
To confirm how irresponsible KATH is, the 37 Military Hospital announced on Friday 25th April that it was going to give a mass burial to 254 stillborns aged between one and twelve days. According to the hospital, some of the corpses had been in its morgue SINCE 2010. The Military Hospital made two important points. First, that all baby corpses have the names of their parents on them. Congrats! Second, that the families need to collect the corpses and give them befitting burial. Based on these facts, which other medical procedures is KATH using that give it the right to burn baby corpses just within a day or so? Upon all these messes, Ms Ayittey thinks that KATH merely violated medical ethics. Hmm!
A reminder to Ms Shirley Ayittey, probably a non-professional in medicine, is the medical cliché ‘Consult when in doubt’. The medical profession is not one in which mistakes are allowed. Matters concerning human life can never be dealt with by doubting persons. Accordingly, in medical schools, a student who guesses and a gets an answer wrong usually loses marks. I remember a friend carried a negative mark to the next quiz. All medical training is geared towards eliminating guesswork and everyday mistakes. Therefore, the claim by KATH that the baby was mistakenly incinerated has no place in medical profession. And if so, only in Ghana.
The MoH is stepping out of bounds; Suweiba’s missing baby issue will likely bring it back to play the role for which it was established. Good news is, however, in the making. Much of the gimmicking is spearheaded by the Minister herself. Per the rumour circulating, she is likely to be axed from that Ministry and cabinet at large. May this be a reality!
Thus far, the missing baby saga is yet to attract support from weighty persons in our society. Conversely, news is dominated by items such as the GYEEDA and SADA scandals. These alleged scandals are about specified amounts of money being misappropriated by some known individuals. Compare the said amounts to human life. Thus, the decision of the Ghanaian society to comment selectively on some wrongs leaving others motivates wrongdoers in those sectors to continue committing more crimes.
The better way out for us is to throw our weight jointly and then discipline appropriately wrongdoers from one sector. This universal discipline will surely prevent other wrongdoers in whichever sector from repeating crimes.