KATH Must Learn From Its Past

Since February 5, this year, the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) has been in the news for very wrong reasons. It’s all about professional negligence, incompetence, lack of operational rules and standard or sheer lack of respect for patients. But this is not the first time.

On June 18, 1997, the Daily Graphic reported that due to an alleged negligence of duty by some medical staff members of the KATH, a man had died, while a baby’s arm had been amputated.

In the first case, a retired army sergeant, William K. Yeboah, from Dorman Ahenkro, died from head injuries he sustained when the bottle containing the oxygen being administered to another patient nearby in the same ward they shared fell on his head.

In the second case, the arm of an infant who was only a few days old and was under intensive care had to be amputated because after its hand was tied for an infusion to be administered, the hand wasn’t untied till the next morning. The arm was found to have gone numb and dead.

It was a sad reflection of how some of the staff of the hospital had become so unconcerned and had no compassion on such a poor child who was under their care to end up permanently disabled for the rest of its life.

A week before those two incidents, it was reported that two babies on admission at the hospital were found sharing the same bed with a dead baby.

When these incidents happened, showing poor supervision, dereliction of professional duty, lack of care by medical staff, which normally would have called for sober reflection and use of comforting words to the affected families, the affected persons and their relatives rather received the harshest of words from the hospital authorities.

In some countries, the incidents would have attracted arrests, prosecutions and the payment of large sums of money as compensation to the victims and their families.

Generally, the public, the victims, and their families, were expecting to see some show of regret, remorse and compassion from the hospital staff and authorities. Regrettably, however, the then Chief Administrator of the hospital, Prof. Albert P. Asafo-Adjei, even compounded the grief of the bereaved family of Sgt Yeboah and that of the little baby.

Without any guilt, the Chief Administrator told Sgt Yeboah’s family: “The hospital is not prepared to pay compensation to the relatives because what happened was purely accidental. It was purely accidental and not a professional mistake.”

To the family of the infant whose arm had been amputated due to negligence and lack of care on the part of the medical staff, Prof. Asafo-Adjei said “negligence was the cause of the mishap for which reason the hospital has agreed to provide feeding, transport costs and other expenses incurred by the family.”

Strangely, when the chief administrator had admitted negligence on the part of his staff, all that he was prepared to do for the family, according to his own laws, was to provide feeding, transport costs and other expenses, without talking about any compensation.

On July 1, 1997, this writer, in an article in the Daily Graphic, questioned the logic in Prof. Asafo-Adjei’s theory that what caused the death of Sgt Yeboah was only an accident, hence the hospital had no responsibility and was not liable to pay any compensation. The article also called on human rights groups and activists to stand up and defend those defenceless victims. I’m yet to learn if the KATH paid any compensation to the affected families.

It is worth noting that some medical staff members of the KATH have made a number of significant achievements in medicine. This needs to be commended and the staff members involved encouraged, but it is equally worth noting that it seems the hospital authority does not want to admit that when its staff members become negligent or derelict, they become liable, first, to show remorse and, second, to be prepared to pay compensation to their victims.

It is based on these previous incidents at the KATH that the case of missing Baby Suweiba since February 5 this year and the discovery of five other missing babies have become very worrying. Since the case became public, the hospital authorities, in their usual ‘we don’t care’ mentalities, as exhibited by Asafo-Adjei’s administration in 1997, have made no full admission of any guilt and there has also been no show of compassion.

Even earlier reports indicated that the KATH authority was shielding the doctors and midwives who were on duty when Baby Suweiba was delivered. Such staff members who should have been quickly handed over to the police were rather shielded, empowering them to refuse to honour police invitations, though the labourer who worked with the medical team on the same shift, and is alleged to have collected the body of the baby for disposal was quickly handed over to the police.

While these incidents, including those reported in 1997, should have served as lessons for the KATH to improve its practices, it seems nothing has been learnt, and the disregard for patients’ rights continues.

The KATH has in its logo “A Centre of Excellence” boldly inscribed, and we believe that it is indeed a centre of excellence considering some of the medical feats achieved by some doctors there. However, such incidents as were reported in 1997 and the current missing babies saga seem to destroy this image of being a centre of excellence. What is worrying is that the hospital refuses to render apologies when needed.

KATH is part of Ghana’s pride and it must, therefore, learn from its mistakes and change its operational practices which are not in consonance with acceptable practices in hospitals of excellence.

Meanwhile, we are still waiting for our human rights activists and groups, and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection on the missing babies and the death of Adjei Akpor of Adenta on January 6, this year.

PS: Mr Inspector-General of Police, having openly accepted that the Police Service had done some wrong in recent past, would you please respond to the children and widow of Adjei Akpor, the 22-year-old man your men killed at Adenta on January 6, 2014 and give them justice?