When Goretti Kajumba gave birth to a child at Mulago, nurses told her that her baby had died. But she doubts the reports.
By Vicky Wandawa
On December 3, 2012, Goretti Kajumba, 33, gave birth to a baby by Caesarian section at Mulago Hospital. When she gained consciousness, she walked to the newborns’ special care unit and asked to see her baby.
“The attendant stopped me from entering the room and asked me what I wanted. When I said I wanted to see my baby, she asked me to go to the doctor and bring her a document as evidence of having given birth.
“As I walked away, she called me back and asked what my name was. After I answered her, she told me my baby had died. When I asked for the body she told me it was not in the special care unit,” Kajumba explains.
Dejected, Kajumba says she headed back to her bed until four days later, when she was discharged. She headed home with the discharge form, unaware of its contents.
When Kajumba reached home, her relatives read the form and told her that her baby was actually alive. She went back to Mulago and gave the letter to a doctor who asked a security guard to accompany her to the newborns’ special care unit.
“The youthful security guard entered the room and spoke to the attendant in English, which I do not comprehend. When he came out, I asked him what he had been told but he kept quiet and signalled me to follow him,” Kajumba recollects.
She was led to a mortuary and introduced to an attendant who told her that her baby had been buried. Pleas to see the records fell on deaf ears, as the attendant said all she knew was that the baby had been buried.
“If the baby was indeed dead, and there was nobody to claim the body, it would have been given to KCCA for burial,” says Kajumba.
She says the security guard then took her to his female colleague who read Kajumba’s discharge letter and warned her never to return to the hospital with it, saying it would cause her trouble because it indicated that her baby was alive, yet it was not.
Scared, Kajumba left the hospital. Her relatives later contacted the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, who directed the commander of Kampala Metropolitan Police, Felix Kaweesi, to take up the matter.
Mulago boss reacts
According to Dr. Banterana Byarugaba, the executive director of Mulago Hospital, Kajumba underwent a Caesarian section at around midnight on December 4 in the labour ward on the fifth floor, but had a distressed baby that passed away shortly after birth.
“The baby was not breathing well and it was taken to the special care unit. The distress continued until it passed on, while the mother recuperated after a dose of intravenous fluids and blood injections,” he says.
Dr. Byarugaba notes that the mother did not have a helper who could have assisted the hospital in identifying the dead child.
“There was a mix-up in documentation and she was given one that did not indicate that her baby was dead,” he added.
Byarugaba said the hospital had a meeting with Kaweesi, and was willing to cooperate during the investigations.
“Mulago Hospital is a department of the Government. We welcome the Police to investigate and give a clear view to the parents of the child and instil confidence in the people of Uganda, that Mulago remains the supreme court of medicine,” he said.
Byarugaba also noted that since he assumed his position at the hospital two years ago, there had not heard any reported cases of theft of babies.
“I can neither deny nor confirm that there is theft of babies at Mulago Hospital. However, if we have individuals involved in the theft of babies at the hospital, they should be brought to book, because they cast a bad image on the hospital. We shall leave no stone unturned.”
However, Kaweesi discloses that there are a lot of irregularities in the management system in the wards, hence the need for investigations to uncover the truth.
The documents connected to Kajumba’s case have been reported missing and there is no document to show that the baby died.
“Ideally, a body should only be buried after the hospital has failed to trace the relatives. However, in this case, the hospital had the contacts of the mother,” Kaweesi said.
Mulago Hospital measures
The hospital plans to take steps to ensure such mix-ups do not occur again. Enock Kusasira, the hospital’s spokesperson, says data in the labour wards will soon be electronically captured.
“We shall install an electronic data system, just like the one in the causality ward, whereby the names of patients are displayed on a screen for all to see. As soon as a mother leaves the theatre, the screen will display the name of the mother, sex of baby, weight, time of birth and whether they were alive or dead,” he explains.
Kusasira added that the hospital is currently training its personnel in the management of the system. He also noted that the hospital had tightened security in the wards.
However, Kusasira advised patients to ensure that they have attendants with them.
“How do you expect the nurse who has many women to attend to become your personal attendant? The nurses are overwhelmed.”
Upset mother believes Mulago lost her baby