Four Kenyan medics, including a neurosurgeon, have been suspended after it was discovered that at a hospital in Nairobi the head of the wrong patient had been cut open.
One patient at the Kenyatta National Hospital needed surgery for a blood clot on the brain, the Daily Nation reported, while the other only noninvasive treatment for swelling.
But the wrong man was taken in for the blood clot surgery, according to reports, following a tragic mix-up of identification tags.
The doctors then opened the skull of the man in the operating room, and became aware of the blunder “hours into the surgery, when they discovered there was no blood clot,” the Daily Nation reported.
The head of the Kenyatta National Hospital Lily Koros said the patient was “in recovery and progressing well” and an investigation had been launched into the incident, the BBC reported.
Koros issued a statement announcing the suspension of four medics, including a neurosurgeon, the ward nurse, operation receiving nurse, and the anesthetist.
The Daily Nation commented on the use of the word “apparent” in the statement as a sign of reluctance on the part of hospital authorities to publicly admit the mistake.
The doctor’s colleagues have raised objections regarding the suspension, reported The Star, arguing the person responsible for misapplying identification tags should be punished.
A medical practice board has said that this is the first time a mix-up like this has occurred in Kenya.
Some social media users have expressed shock that such an incident could have happened at the hospital.
How do you conduct brain surgery on the wrong patient? Kenyatta National Hospital has outdone themselves. Horrfying!!!!
— Carol Radull (@CarolRadull) March 1, 2018
Other comments conveyed outrage and hinted at the presence of systemic problems.
— Muthui Wakanda (@MuthuiMkenya) March 2, 2018
Malaria, HIV, TB, and Kenyatta National Hospital are the leading causes of death in Kenya.
— Joshua K. Njenga (@JKNjenga) March 2, 2018
The incident comes just weeks after the health minister ordered an investigation into claims new mothers were sexually assaulted at Kenyatta National Hospital, according to the BBC.
The doctors’ union defended staff, saying the hospital was “overwhelmed” by staff shortages and inadequate facilities in which to perform surgeries.
“You find one doctor could be doing 10 to 19 operations [in a day],” said Ouma Oluga, the chief executive officer of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union, according to the BBC.
There have also been reports of broken equipment, overcrowding, and long waiting times for treatment.