Kariuki defends suspension of KNH boss after mix-up

Mercy Mwai @wangmarci

Health Cabinet secretary Sicily Kariuki yesterday defended her decision to suspend Kenyatta National Hospital chief executive officer Lily Koros and Director of Clinical Services Bernard Githae, saying she was just implementing the board’s decision.

Speaking when she appeared before the Senate Committee on Health, Kariuki said the had not been sacked but sent on compulsory leave in line with the hospital’s regulations.

But speaking separately, Koros alleged witch-hunt in her suspension following a mix-up that saw a wrong patient operated on at the referral hospital. She said recent happenings at the hospital “ leaves a lot of questions unanswered”.

But Kariuki told senators that the compulsory leave was in line with KNH human resource manual that provides for sanctions on an officer in charge if such situation happens. “There was a public outcry and we needed to give the public some urgent measure of confidence,” she said. Kariuki submitted preliminary findings of investigations by the hospital’s board on the mix-up.

“The two had to be away to allow investigations to be done. The hospital board constituted a special committee to investigate the unintended surgery and the report has since been presented to my office,” she said.

The report cites the failure to put name tags on patients, congestion at the facility, shortage of manpower, long working hours and non-adherence to Standard Operating Procedures as the main causes of the surgery mix-up.

Committee chair Michael Maina asked Kariuki to explain the link between Koros and Githae in the mix-up, saying it was not captured in the report. “The report does not clearly show how the two were involved in the mix-up yet they were sent on compulsory leave. How is that possible?” he asked. The CS said the duo were accountable for KNH operations.

But appearing before the National Assembly Health committee, Koros absolved herself from blame in KNH woes. She said recent incidents such as rape allegation cases at the hospital, malfunctioning of MRI machine and theft of a baby pointed to witch-hunt. She said Kariuki ordered her to proceed on compulsory leave after holding a meeting with three board members “for 20 minutes only”.

“The CS said the case is beyond the board and after a meeting with three board members I was called and she is the one who told us that we are to proceed on compulsory leave. I was later given my letter by the board,” she said.

Koros blamed the surgery mishap on fatigue among nurses given that one nurse handles about 28 patients against the recommended World Health Organisation ration of 1:15. She added that the hospital is overstretched.

Meanwhile, Githae claimed the mix-up originated from the accident and emergency centre where the nurse on duty failed to label the patient as well as in theatre, where the ward and theatre nurses, anaesthetist, and the surgeon did not sign patient’s checklist.

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