Doctors at Nyangabwe Hospital in Francistown are twiddling their fingers and watching patients die in their scores from diseases that can be treated, it has been revealed.
Scores of Ngangabwe Hospital patients suffering from diseases that can be cured have been dying while waiting in the operating theatre long queue, while others die because they will not sign consent forms for life saving operations, like the lumber puncture, the hospital management revealed this week.
Hospital Superintendent, Dr Japhta Masunge, says patients who need emergency operation usually wait long periods because of limited theatre space. It emerged that a lot of times, surgeons are left idling around with nothing to do while waiting for theatre space to be availed so that they can operate on patients.
Dr Massage told delegates at a breakfast meeting that they are also grappling with high incidences of deaths, especially from patients who suffer from meningitis who usually refuse to sign consent forms for the lumber puncture operation because of the myth that the operation causes death.
It emerged that Nyangabwe Hospital is caught up in a vicious death cycle, which is difficult to break because the high death toll from lumber punctures performed late is feeding the public fear that the operation kills. The situation is not helped by the HIV/AIDS scourge.
Another doctor from Nyangabwe Hospital, Dr. Raphaka, said meningitis is very common among patients who are HIV positive because the organisms that cause the disease are very opportunistic. “Meningitis is very common in people with low CD4 counts or compromised immune systems,” she said.
She also indicated that, unlike in the past, the lumber puncture has become a routine operation that is carried out almost on a daily basis because the hospital is inundated with patients whose immune system has been compromised and who are suffering from meningitis. She added that meningitis is a curable disease that can be controlled if treated on time. Dr Raphaka, however, said that their efforts to save lives are usually derailed by stubborn patients and their relatives who refuse to undergo the lumber puncture because they have fallen prey to the myth that it is a killer operation.
“We have in the past experienced countless incidences of patients who ended up dying unnecessarily because they took too long to give hospital authorities permission to perform the lumber puncture on them,” she said. She also added that meningitis is a very dangerous illness that will cause death if not treated on time. However, she said patients and relatives only relent and agree to the lumber puncture when they see that their patient is wasting at which point will be too late to save the patient’s life. After that the parents and relatives of the patients would turn around and say that their patient would have survived if they had continued to refuse the lumber puncture.
“Many a time, patients die not because of the lumber puncture but because they took too long to agree to the lumber puncture, resulting in the disease taking its toll on them. By the time they do agree to the lumber puncture the disease would have festered to a point where treatment does not even help, and they end up dying,” she said.
Dr Masunge explained that lumber puncture is a routine life saving operation that is performed on patients suspected to be suffering from meningitis to remove the cerebro-spinal fluid, the fluid that circulates around the brain and the spinal cord from the patient. Meningitis is a disease associated with the inflammation of the menenges, the membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord. During the lumber puncture a syringe is inserted just below the spinal cord and a small quantity (less than 5ml) of the cerebro-spinal fluid is removed. Tests are then performed on the fluid to determine the type of meningitis the patient is afflicted with.
`Dr Masunge also said that they are faced with another problem of patients who only come to the hospital when they are seriously ill. He added that positive treatment is usually compromised because of late presentation.
“The message that we need to send to the community is that people should seek medical attention as soon as they feel that something is wrong,” he said. He also encouraged people to go for routine medical checkups so that illnesses are detected early to guarantee good treatment outcome.