Are government hospitals putting patients’ lives at risk?

via Are government hospitals putting patients’ lives at risk? – The Zimbabwean 23/12/2015 by Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Although I had heard of cancer all my life, I had never taken the time to thoroughly research on this disease, until someone very close to me was recently diagnosed with colon cancer, and was prescribed to undergo chemotherapy.

However, after her first course of chemotherapy at a government central hospital in Bulawayo – which took five days – I noticed that she was experiencing severe pain in several parts of her body.

There were ulcerations in her mouth and throat, pain in her hands, feet, and abdomen, as well as bouts of diarrhoea.

Nevertheless, according to my research, these side effects were in conformity with the type of treatment she had received.

What, however, shocked me was that she seemed not to have known beforehand that the treatment she was to have administered on her would cause such side effects.

It seemed, in fact, that the oncologists at this government central hospital had not bothered at all to provide her with adequate pre-treatment counselling.

The question that swiftly came to my mind was: are medical practitioners not required to provide such a service before administering any treatment, and is failure to do so not unprofessional conduct?

Further research into the medication administered to this cancer patient revealed something that left me flabbergasted, if not completely bewildered.

One of the drugs administered during the first course of treatment was Fluorouracil Injection.

According to the information that I gathered, it is clearly described as a very toxic drug, with a ‘narrow margin of safety’, and severe toxicity could result in death despite ‘meticulous selection of patients and careful adjustment of dosage’.

With such a warning on the fatally potent nature of the drug, is it not utter recklessness, if not downright negligence of duty by the oncologists, in their decision not to inform patients of such possibilities?

In fact, the recklessness and negligence did not stop with the oncologist alone, as the hospital as a whole seems to be liable.

This is as a result of its disregard of a clear warning issued in terms of the administration of this drug, which says that ‘patients be hospitalised during their first course of treatment’ for very close supervision, due to the earlier-mentioned highly toxic nature of the Fluorouracil Injection.

However, this was not the case with the cancer patient I am making reference to, as she was treated as an outpatient.

In this regard, the government of Zimbabwe, through its ministry of health, should seriously look into the treatment of cancer patients at its hospitals, as such misconduct can not be allowed to continue.

People go to hospitals seeking healing, not to come out of there more sick, if not in a coffin.

Clear standards of operation should be put in place, and these should be closely monitored to ensure their strict adherence by all involved.

Putting patients’ lives in danger in this way, especially in a trusted health institution, supposedly staffed by competent personnel, is clearly and unequivocally unacceptable.

Patients should be treated with dignity and respect whenever they enter a health facility, no matter their social standing – be they rich or poor, young or old, White or Black.

The disadvantaged should not be treated as if they mean nothing to this country.

Seeking treatment at a government institution, instead of an expensive private facility, should never be interpreted to mean that the person is sub-human, inferior and insignificant in any way.

Otherwise, how can one explain knowingly administering a highly toxic and potentially fatal drug to a patient without first explaining this to them?

Would someone with a conscience do something like this?

Actually, these are the so-called ‘povo’ that these politicians run to every time they want to be voted into office.

So do these politicians in government just view the disadvantaged as nothing more than an easy ticket into office, which they can then just throw out of the window when they are safely in their seats?

The disadvantaged in our society deserve better. They deserve dignity, and they deserve life. If the current government can not deliver that, then it is time to step aside.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a community activist, communications consultant, journalist and writer. He writes in his personal capacity. He welcomes feedback. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: