Medical Council of Malawi (MCM) has summoned health workers implicated in 20 cases of medical misconduct as revealed in the recent Ombudsman report on conduct of medical practitioners in some public facilities.
MCM registrar Richard Ndovi in a written response yesterday confirmed that the health workers’ regulatory body will take action against practitioners involved in the misconducts which, according to the Ombudsman report, has led to the removal of over 161 uteruses of pregnant women in the country’s four major public hospitals.
The facilities where the cases were registered between January and July 2018 are Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Zomba Central Hospital, Kamuzu Central Hospital and Mzuzu Central Hospital.
Said Ndovi: “For now we have investigated over 20 complaints. Practitioners will be appearing before a disciplinary committee in September [next month].”
He said MCM, apart from adopting the Ombudsman report released last week titled Woes of the Womb—An Investigation into Allegations of Medical Malpractices Resulting in Removal of Uteruses from Expectant Women in Public Health Facilities, had conducted its own investigation which confirmed institutional medical negligence.
“MCM has teeth and some practitioners were deregistered and suspended earlier in the year. In addition we, we closed Kaporo Health Centre which has now been renovated,” he said.
The Ombudsman report also faults the Ministry of Health (MoH) for failing to provide sufficient staff for gynaecology and obstetrics departments, ward space and for perennial challenges of drug shortages.
But MoH spokesperson Joshua Malango in a written response yesterday said the ministry has been in touch with the Ombudsman since 2017/18 financial year when the investigations started.
He said: “The two sides have met more than twice. We also met with MCM on the same. Most of the issues were already addressed. Take note that all issues to do with unprofessional conduct are referred to professional bodies. When it comes to issues of bed space, it is attributed to the fact that we do not have district hospitals in all cities.
“Also note that the current population boom is taking a strain on available resources. But as for the drugs budget, this year it has been increased and all central hospitals are managing by themselves.”
In the report, Ombudsman Mary Chizuma states that negligence is the main cause of removal of uteruses medically referred to as hysterectomy.
Reads the report in part: “Most of the disturbing incidents of hysterectomy are those arising from pure negligence and lack of care on the part of health personnel. Only few of such medical personnel are held to account for their misconduct.”
It recommends the disciplining of the medical professionals found guilty of various types of misconduct and that MoH should complete a functional review process, an assessment of its existing staff establishments for doctors and nurses in all health facilities, by June 30 2020.
In an interview, Ombudsman Chizuma said the directives in the report were legally binding and, therefore, her office expects MoH to carry out the recommendations.
She said: “My expectation is that it will be easy for MoH to comply because we discussed the practicality and there are certain things that they are already doing. The compliance will go a long way to correct systematic problems in gynaecology and obstetrics departments in our central hospitals.”
Commenting on the issue, Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe urged MoH to quickly address the issues by increasing the health budget and improving stocking of drugs and other medical supplies.
“This report highlights serious challenges in the health sector which shows that we have a lot of health workers who neglect their professional ethics. It should also be noted that the report reveals that some of the challenges noted are a result of staffing shortages. It is important to know that a single case of negligence by a health professional can result in death which has adverse effects on affected families,” he said. The report is one of the investigations conducted by the public protector to ensure that various government departments are serving the public efficiently and satisfactorily.