Raped at 14, Gertrude faced it rough at the hands of her doctor

Gertrude breast feeds her baby at their home in Nebbi recently. PHOTO BY patrick okaba

What you need to know:

The girl, whose misery began after the rape, had things worsen for her when she failed to give birth normally, leading to a bad operation.


Gertrude Akech is only 14 years old and yet she has already gone through so much pain after she was raped by an unknown gang.

Days after her ordeal, it was discovered that Gertrude was pregnant and on January 10, she was taken to Nebbi Hospital to deliver her baby. Unable to give birth normally, she was taken to the theatre when the doctor ascertained that she had obstructed labour. This was the start of a painful series of events.

While in the theatre, she was operated without being anaesthetised. In the process, some of her internal organs were damaged and the wound became septic. According to her grandmother, Gertrude was left with a burst abdomen and intestinal fistula. “During the morning ward round, the doctor who operated on Gertrude found her in pain, pus and blood oozing through the gauze that had been placed on the wound,” Susan Akot narrates.

She adds that when the doctor removed the stitches, the girl screamed, forcing the doctor to slap her hard-She fell unconscious. She says the doctor came back four days later and opened the wound again, the stitches had already been torn and the wound was wide.

The internal organs started coming out and a nurse was called to help push the organs back. At this point, the doctor became aggressive and after working on her, he left. Information gathered by Action for Human Rights and Education Initiative – Uganda, an NGO that has been investigating Gertrude’s case, shows that Akot tried to contact other doctors but they all refused to work on the girl for fear that her condition could worsen.

The doctor is said to have appeared on January 18, only to pile more misery on the girl. He was then asked to sign a referral form for the girl to be transferred to another hospital but he refused, saying “he had not failed to manage the girl’s condition”.

Luckily for Gertrude, another doctor, who requested not to be named, signed the papers and on January 26, she was referred to Arua Regional Referral Hospital, 76 kilometres away from Nebbi Hospital.

The doctor, who took over Gertrude’s treatment, blamed her condition on the poor operation after the prolonged obstructed labour. He says because of the poor surgery, she had faecal leakage, which caused severe sepsis (pus-forming bacteria), a burst abdomen and severe anaemia, leading to injuries to her gut. “Because of the poor state of her condition when we received her, she was put on special treatment before she underwent a corrective operation. She was discharged after her condition improved tremendously,” Dr Julius Apo says.

Taking action
The matter was reported to the district authorities and the police who tried to bring the doctor to order, but to no success. The case is currently registered with the police. Information from Arua hospital indicates that Gertrude is the ninth case referred from Nebbi Hospital, with almost similar conditions after a caesarean operation.

While she survived the operation, eight other women with similar problems are said to have died.
One of the unfortunate women was survived by a baby. Records at Nebbi hospital show that all the nine caesarean operations were done by the same doctor, who hails from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The doctor, who came to Uganda as a refugee, was granted a practicing certificate by the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council. He worked in Pallisa and Kalongo hospitals before being transferred to Nebbi, where he also acted as the medical superintendent. He is also alleged to have escaped out of Nebbi on learning that the matter had been reported to police.

The executive director of Action for Human Rights & Education Initiative – Uganda, Mr Fred Abibo, says while on a fact finding mission in regard to Gertrude’s case, police said the doctor had gone to Kampala.
The police said there was a file against the doctor but they were still investigating the matter and could not disclose how far their investigations had gone.

Efforts by the Saturday Monitor to get a comment from the officer in-charge of Nebbi Police Station were futile as our repeated phone calls remained unanswered. On May 26, Dr Jacob Oryemu, the district health officer, in a recorded statement, said Gertrude was a “political patient” who had caused the hospital problems. He blamed the failure by the hospital to get another doctor for Gertrude portrayed the district in bad light.

“I was informed that five patients were operated on and only one developed a problem that week. The complication developed when herbs were put in the wounds by the attendants,” Mr Oryemu said.
He added that the girl had a low immunity because she had TB and HIV/Aids and that is why she got complications.

“I cannot even claim that the doctor was tired because this girl was the first to be taken to the theatre and my doctor was fresh enough not to cause any mistakes,” Dr Oryem was quoted by AHEDI-UG. He also blamed the Uganda Medical Practitioner Committee that registered and licensed the doctor to practice.

The chairperson of the District Service Commission, Mr Acel Picho, said according to the doctor’s CV, he first worked in Nakivalley Refugee Camp, from where he was given a recommendation to work in Lacor hospital.
“And when he presented his certificate from the medical council, we gave him a one-year renewable contract.”
However, the doctor’s contract at Nebbi Hospital has not been renewed after he disappeared from the hospital.

Ms Akot also alleges that she last heard from the doctor when he sent her threatening messages, saying he would kill her if she did not drop the case against him. While the doctor remains on the run, the scars on patients like Gertrude will be a constant reminder of the pain they went through in his hands.

Disclaimer: The names used in the story are fictitious. The victim’s identity and her grandmother’s were protected since she is a minor.