Africa

Kenyan nurse handed brain surgeon the wrong patient

Kenyatta National Hospital Image copyright AFP
Image caption The man who was operated on was suffering from brain swelling that did not require surgery

A Kenyan nurse has admitted to sending the wrong patient for brain surgery, blaming a heavy workload for the error.

Mary Wahome only realised her mistake when surgeons said they could not find the patient's blood clot.

They were meant to operate on a man with a blood clot on the brain. But the man who had surgery only needed non-invasive treatment for swelling.

The mistake, which made international headlines earlier this month, left Samuel Wachir with memory loss.

Ms Wahome was one of several members of staff from Kenyatta National Hospital to be questioned by a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

The hearing was told that only private patients in the hospital receive name-tags.

Following the case, local media have questioned whether the hospital had proper mechanisms for identifying all its patients.

Ms Wahome said the mix-up happened when Mr Wachir replied after she had called out the real patient's name, John Nderitu. "I walked into the ward and called out the name. Someone responded and I immediately prepared him, wrote his name on a tape and put it on the gown he was wearing," she said.

She was one of no more than three nurses in charge of 61 patients that day, according to local media. The incident led to the suspension of four staff, including the neurosurgeon, ward nurse, theatre receiving nurse and anaesthetist.

They were reinstated after hundreds of doctors protested against the suspension of the neurosurgeon, arguing that the person who wrongly tagged the patient should be suspended.

The mix-up at the Nairobi hospital comes amid allegations that its staff sexually assaulting female patients, a charge the hospital denies.

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