Tuesday September 20 2011

Mbale doctors held over death of woman in labour

Ms Nassali (with bag) being led to Mbale CPS

Ms Nassali (with bag) being led to Mbale CPS after she was arrested with other doctors at Mbale Referral Hospital. PHOTO BY DAVID MAFABI. 

By David Mafabi


Police have arrested and detained six medical officers of Mbale Referral Hospital as it commenced an investigation into the death of a pregnant teacher and her baby two weeks ago.

Cecilia Nambozo, the deceased, a teacher at Busamaga Primary School in Mbale Municipality, bled to death allegedly unattended to after failing to raise Shs300,000 the medical officers had reportedly asked for.

Police arrested Dr Mercy Nassali, Dr Darmascus Kagga Ssenyonga, Dr Michael Emusugut and Dr Moses Muwanguzi. They also arrested Sister Margeret Kakai, the nursing officer in charge of the Maternity Ward. This follows a story titled: “For lack of Shs300,000, teacher bleeds to death in labour ward,” published over the weekend by Sunday Monitor.

Eastern Regional police spokesperson Diana Nandawula confirmed the arrest of the medics as they investigate the possibility of negligence of duty and corruption. “We have arrested doctors and nurses over the death of a teacher. They will answer charges of neglect of duty,” Ms Nandawula said yesterday.

All the suspects were picked from the hospital by the police and whisked off to Mbale Central Police Station where they are expected to record statements.

Neglect of duty charges attracts a 10-year sentence on conviction.
A post mortem by a police surgeon, Dr Bernabas Rubanza, indicates that the baby weighed 5.2 kilogrammes and that Nambozo died due to failure to push the baby, rupturing the uterus.

Dr Rubanza added that due to neglect after the uterus malfunctioned, Nambozo bled to death. Nambozo’s case is one of the 430 maternal mortality cases in every 100,000 births registered in Uganda, most of them a product of negligence.

According to Nambozo’s colleague, Ms Grace Acham, who took her to hospital, they arrived at 6am but Nambozo was reportedly neglected in the Labour Ward until 8pm when she breathed her last.

“The lady could not push because the baby was big. The doctors demanded Shs300,000, which we could not raise at the moment,” Ms Acham said. She said they had spent the little money they had to purchase surgical equipment. “And when I came back, I found her in pain, crying, there was no help. The medics looked on as they asked for money,” she added.

Failed efforts
When Nambozo’s situation deteriorated, she [Acham] approached a midwife and asked her to attend to her as the husband ran to the village to sell property and raise the money but the midwife and a doctor allegedly declined.

“At about 6pm, Nambozo started gasping; she fell on the floor and was bleeding profusely. That was when the doctor responded and took her to the theatre but it was too late to save her life,” Ms Acham said.
The doctor emerged from the theatre after close to 10 minutes and announced that both the child and the mother had died, Ms Acham added.

Experiencing such cases on a daily basis, women activists recently petitioned the Constitutional Court against the government on preventable maternal deaths and the right to health. The hearing of the case started this month. The petition states that government’s failure to provide essential medical commodities and health services to pregnant women is a violation of the constitutional rights of Ugandans.