You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2021 09 21Article 1362436

Opinions of Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Columnist: Dawda Eric

Matters of medical negligence and the story of Captain Nyamekye

Quite recently, Captain Nyamekye had a judgment against the government of Ghana. This judgment debt was caused by the reckless handling of a pregnant woman by 37 military Hospital.

That kind of recklessness actually led to the serious deformity of a newborn baby as well as the death of a young lady who at the time of the disgusting incident was a PhD candidate at the University of Ghana.

In fact, if this judgment debt had been caused by a politician, the issue would have been on public discourse for weeks. It would have featured on news file which prides itself as the most authoritative news analysis show in Ghana. The issue is the infamous case of Captain Nyamekye & Anor vs The Attorney General.

We turn to have eagle ears on the politician when a chunk of the mess holding back the progress of this country is either caused by private individuals or civil servants in government institutions.

Now back to the issue in 37 Military Hospital,

The fact of the matter is, In 2015, the deceased went to 37 Military Hospital when she was in labor. She went with her husband as well as her Mum and Dad.

The hospital upon realizing that her BP had gone up[ 170/170] opted to put her on serious medication. According to the hospital, they needed to put her on medication so that, her BP could come down for safe delivery. The Hospital tried everything within its means to bring the Blood Pressure down to 160 /170.

Her husband who was not comfortable with the situation requested CS as a mode of delivery as of choice. The doctor on duty initially agreed and even urged the lady's family to keep their cool since the hospital had already activated the best measures to stabilize her condition for smooth delivery.

Sadly for Captain Nyamekye, there was a new team of medical officers who took over the treatment of the deceased. The initial request for CS was declined and the vagina delivery process was activated even at the time the lady's condition kept fluctuating.

What actually helped Captain Nyamekye was that every single encounter with medical officers, there were family members present.

When the vagina delivery process was activated, Captain Nyamekye drove to the hospital and expressed his worries but the medical team managed to convince him on grounds that, CS could not be done because, in the morning the lady had taken breakfast and for them, in between the period she took the meal, going by the CS mode of delivery was not going to be possible for them in view of the due date for delivery.

Captain Nyamekye at that time was rendered helpless because of the professional opinion preferred by the medical team.

Upon numerous insertion which was geared towards widening the vagina for smooth delivery to take place amidst the 170/170 blood pressure, the hospital still couldn't get the normal 7cm space for vagina delivery.

In fact, all the efforts only yielded a 4.5cm space. At the said juncture, medical officers on duty ought to have known that, going by vagina delivery with such "small space" as in the expansion of the vagina was going to put the lady into serious stress having regard to the fact that, her blood pressure was not in a stable condition.[170/170]

When medical officers realized that, they were going to hit a snag, they assembled a powerful team of midwives to be on guard that very night. When their first attempt failed, the lady was taken to the second floor with a stand-by team in waiting.

In fact, the word "push" in the labor ward could even be heard outside. Her husband was eventually invited to the scene so that, the lady could be motivated to "push" more upon seeing her husband's sexy face. That invitation actually yielded a positive result on a sad and painful note.

The baby after delivery did not even cry which according to officers was not normal. They quickly took the fresh baby to the baby's ward for resuscitation for consciousness to prevail.

Luckily for them, it was successful but eventually, a mark of physical deformity was left on the newborn child.

When medical officers went to check the labor ward, they realized that the lady had bled so much that, she needed additional blood from the blood bank to shore up the lost blood.

What actually resulted in the excessive bleeding was that there was a rupture of the vagina /cut as a result of the mode of delivery which didn't occur to the midwives immediately the delivery was done. They failed to treat the cut and that failure led to the sudden demise of the young lady.

A month after the sad story, Captain Nyamekye took legal action against the government of Ghana for damages for the loss of her wife as well as the deformity of the child.

When the matter was called, the medical officers outrightly denied Captain Nyamekye's claim that he earlier requested that CS be done when the deceased blood pressure went to an abnormal level.

What perhaps escaped the officers was that, even before they took over, Captain Nyamekye had already established close contact with the Doctor who was in charge when her wife initially visited the facility. There were series of WhatsApp communication as a reminder concerning his initial request for CS from the facility.

When the team denied the claim, lawyers for Captain Nyamekye tendered those pieces of personal communication with the doctor in evidence. The medical officers were badly exposed when they mounted the witness box after filing their witness statements.

The court held inter alia that, the mode of delivery was not safe at the time in view of the lady's blood pressure which was high and as medical professionals, they ought to have known that, going by that mode of delivery was going to put the lady in serious danger.

Also was the holding that, if the midwives on duty had been more professional, that excessive bleeding wouldn't have occurred and by the objective standard of the test [as held in White House v Jordan, Asante Kramo v Attorney General] particularly in respect of professional conduct, a reasonable medical officer on any day faced with the same situation wouldn't have done what they did.

The court finally awarded damages against the government of Ghana for the negligent conduct of Medical officers at 37 Military Hospital.

If what happened to Captain Nyamekye which I think is not new to us in our modern Ghana had happened to a poor family, I bet my last coin that, 37 military Hospital would have walked scot-free.

My utmost worry is that, when it happens this way in a government hospital, it is the government kitty which you and I have contributed towards building this country that suffers.

We must have a legal regime that would not only impose civil liability on medical practitioners who fail to go by their professional standard but also a criminal liability when some of these unprofessional conducts result in the death of people.

We must not allow the dark days of such happenings to return...It seriously terrifies our pregnant women anytime they visit the labor ward.