Tanzanian Hospital Witnesses Serious Medical Blunder

by Ann Samuel on Nov 10 2007 3:26 PM

A hospital in Tanzania intercrossed surgeries between two patients happening to share the same first name.

Emmanuel Didas was admitted for a knee operation after a motorbike accident, while Emmanuel Mgaya was a chronic migraine sufferer scheduled to go in for head surgery. Now as Mgaya is recovering from an unplanned knee operation, Didas is now unconscious in an intensive care unit, after the head surgery.

Meanwhile, doctors at Muhimbili National and Referral Hospital, Dar es Salaam have no answers for the swarm of angry relatives demanding a full investigation into the incident. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare informs that it has ordered an inquiry into the medical blunder.

'This is negligence because a doctor must know that a knee is positioned very far from the head,' says one of Mr Didas's relatives. The family, keeping vigil outside the intensive care ward, is not yet filled in on the results of the unexpected head surgery. 'The doctors did not even tell us that Emmanuel had had a head operation. It is the responsibility of a doctor to ensure patients get the right treatment,' the relative says.

Relatives of secondary student Emmanuel Mgaya waiting outside the surgery ward explain how they felt the unfortunate accident had come about. 'We think maybe the nurses mixed the patients' files because they were admitted in the same ward and sharing the same first names,' says one.

Mgaya had recently developed acute headaches while studying for his final secondary school exams. He was referred to Muhimbili Hospital from a remote district in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. 'We still have faith in the doctors. What has happened has not made us lose faith,' his relatives say.' We have already spoken to the hospital director who has reassured us that qualified consultants will operate on Emmanuel Mgaya. So we are not worried', they add.

But Didas’s family remains shocked and dismayed. 'A person has several names. The medical staff should have checked this before the operation,' say one of them.