NAIROBI, 1ST MARCH 2018: Two patients were on Sunday admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital's (KNH) ward 5A which houses general surgery patients and trauma patients without fractures. One of the patients had a blood clot in the brain and needed surgery to remove the clot while the other only required nursing and medication to reduce the swelling on his head.
At the specific ward where the two patients were, medics are usually only able to identify the patients based on the name tags that they wear on their ward gowns - on this fateful day, it happened that tags for the two patients were switched.
The patient who only needed medication and nursing ended up on the theatre table and it was only after hours into the operation that the surgeons realized that they were operating on the wrong patient. A source at KNH told URBAN RADIO NEWS TEAM that it was after the doctors had opened the head of the wrong patient that they realized that there was no clot in the brain of the patient they were having on the operating table.
"The surgeon who was in charge of the operation realized that what he was seeing on the brain of the patient was different from what was shown in the CT scan that influenced the decision to operate in the first place," said the source.
It was at this point that a neurosurgeon on call was contacted for advice and he suggested that the doctors clean up the area and close the patient's head.
KNH CEO Ms. Lilly Koros says in a statement that the hospital has suspended the staff who were involved in the mixup.
“The management has suspended the admission rights of a neurosurgery registrar and issued him with a show-cause letter for apparently operating on the wrong patient,” Ms Koros said.
According to the hospital, both the patient who was wrongly operated on and the patient that required the operation are in stable condition and responding well to treatment.
“The hospital deeply regrets this event and has done all it can to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the patient in question. We are happy to inform the public that the patient is in recovery and progressing well,” read part of the statement.
The KNH boss said they would immediately convene a Medical Advisory Committee chaired by the Director, Clinical Services to conduct a probe and make a determination on the matter.
“The hospital will advise the public on actions taken once the investigation is over,” added Koros.
Our source at KNH however absolves the operating doctors from blame saying that there was no way the doctors would have known that they were operating on the wrong patient because they usually rely on medical files presented to them before the operation.
"The doctors operated based on the set of information they had on the patient's file. If there is anyone to blame it's whoever was responsible for placing the name tags on the patients," said our source.
The mix-up also raises questions about pre-surgery procedures in Kenyan hospitals, especially on how to ensure the right patient is operated on the right place.
Other staff members who were also suspended include the ward nurse, theatre receiving nurse, and the anaesthetist.