Another medical boob?

Veronica Gwaze and Forward Nyanyiwa
“While death is difficult to accept, especially under such weird circumstances, I wish they could at least allow us to mourn our babies,’ sadly narrated the visibly shaken Stanely Balalika.

It is taboo in our Zimbabwean culture to mourn the loss of a newly born baby.

Balalika is a commuter omnibus driver while his wife, Belinda Tsvanu, is a house wife and sadly, they did not lose one baby, but their first born twin daughters.

In the horrifying case, the young couple, both 24, were left emotionally wounded the day the angel of death snatched away their twins only seven days after they were born.

Balalika could not contain his emotions as he fought back tears that kept spilling from his swollen eyes, a sign that he could have had several sleepless nights.

Narrating the ordeal, the Kuwadzana-based couple said when the twins were born, one instantly developed yellow fever, which prompted Harare Central Hospital to admit her.

A few hours later, the other twin developed the same fever and she got admitted too.

“In the admission ward, they were both placed in the same incubator, covered with a sheet and the incubator had a heater and lights turned on to provide them with warmth.”

At around midnight, when the mother went to breast-feed the babies, she discovered with horror that her 10pm visit had been her last time to see the girls alive.

“She found the twins already dead, they were burnt black. The heater and lights were still on, showing that none of those who were on duty had made a surveillance round-up since the time she had last breastfed the babies.

“She then called a nurse who was close by attending to another baby in that ward. All the other nurses who were on duty that fateful night were not anywhere near.”

The nurse, who refused to be identified for fear of victimisation, after accessing the situation then called a doctor who declared the twins dead.

Balalika said on the fateful day, one of the twins was supposed to have been discharged, according to doctor’s instructions.

“Earlier on, one of the twins was supposed to be discharged since she was already fine but somehow the nurses did not discharge her as the doctor had instructed.

“That really pains me, maybe she could have survived.”

The family was informed that the twins suffered dehydration because temperatures in the incubator were too high.

“They suspect that the heat was too high, which is what led to dehydration, subsequently killing the newly-borns.”

Balalika said his wife is even more devastated, especially because the hospital went on to bury the twins without them.

“I wish they could have at least given us a chance to be there for burial. Initially they had said they will cremate them but later said they will bury them at Mbudzi Cemetery, so we are not even sure how they will be disposed of but we are bitter because whichever way they did it, I feel they should have involved us.

“The hospital showed us a lot of ‘we-don’t-care attitude’ during this sad episode and I believe the death of these twins was a result of negligence,” he said.

A mother who was a neighbour to Belinda in the ward and witnessed the events on the fateful day said they were surprised by the response from the health staff following the incident.

“I was the last to get out of the ward after we were dismissed at around 10 pm. A nurse came to their bed and removed the linen that was covering the babies, leaving them exposed to the direct heat of the incubator’s lights.

“When we came back around midnight, upon entering the room I saw a nurse who was shouting to her colleagues that the babies had passed on.

“To me it is very unfair because somebody slept on duty. We want to be discharged because our children are not safe here,” said the mother, who preferred anonymity.

Yet a nurse said the mother of the babies had applied some “anointing oil” on them, which could have worsened the babies’ stay in the incubator.

“The mother had applied some anointing oil on the babies and this attracted some more heat from the incubator, resulting in their demise.

“The linen on the bed is intact and so is everything but just because these lights are not ordinary lights, the babies were unfortunately burnt,” said the nurse.

The mother denied applying any oil onto her babies.

Harare Central Hospital chief executive officer, Dr Nyasha Musuka, said they are yet to ascertain what really transpired on the fateful day as investigations are still underway.

“Pathologists have done their post-mortems and are finalising their report and a report on the findings from a board of inquiry comprising members from Chitungwiza Hospital and Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals is being finalised.

“The Health Professions Authority did their inspection on Monday and are compiling a report and The Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe did theirs last Friday and they are compiling their reports too.

“We will synthesise all that and come up with a factual expert opinion, together with a way forward. That is our position as a hospital at the moment,” said Dr Masuka.

A human rights lawyer from Justice for Children, Mr Musa Kika, said they are awaiting the results of investigations from the hospital before they institute legal proceedings as they are convinced there was gross human negligence.

“We are just waiting for their (hospital) investigations to be completed before we map our way forward but obviously, we will be suing the hospital for what we believe was gross negligence from their staff,” he said.

Medical boobs have been Zimbabwe’s headache for some time and last year, Chitungwiza Central Hospital was sued by a woman who had her hip improperly fixed.

A Dzivarasekwa woman, Netsai Matibe, lost her hand following another case of medical negligence by doctors and nurses at Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Hospital after a tourniquet was left on her arm with nurses claiming they were trying to locate her veins so that they could rehydrate her.

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