Here is how to stop the newborn theft ‘series’ at Mulago Hospital

Here is how to stop the newborn theft ‘series’ at Mulago Hospital

Although meant to be a safe haven for mothers seeking delivery services by virtue of its national referral status, Mulago Hospital once again finds itself in a tricky position.

The stories of baby thefts won’t simply go away as 2015 kicked off yet again with another episode. In this particular case a couple is claiming that their live newborn was swapped for a dead one, something Mulago Hospital denies. The media quoted the hospital authorities explaining that the complainant was admitted to the hospital when the foetus was already dead in what was termed as an “intra-uterine foetal death.”

At the time of writing this blog, all the cast in the latest episode were awaiting DNA results to ascertain if indeed the dead body belongs to the complaining couple.

Unfortunately, the baby ‘theft’ series is far from ending at Mulago and more episodes are yet come unless some fundamental system issues are fixed. Among these is putting in place a functional referral system in the country to cushion Mulago against even the simplest of cases; government working out ways of reducing the costs of healthcare -which are currently high- that keep pushing people to Mulago for “free” services; health service providers need to fix their health information management systems; and enforcing strict hospital visiting guidelines.

And my focus today will be on the latter two because it is on these over which hospitals have direct control. And if the hospital management exerted some effort on these, perhaps the “Mulago baby theft” series would have ended by now.

None-the-less, it is not unusual nowadays to find many health facilities especially around Kampala and other urban centres across the country clinging on to patients’ medical records. Some patients even never get to know what they are being treated for. And when things go wrong, as was at Mulago, for a client who has not been privy to their records, it will be easy to blame the service provider. The public will easily and reasonably back up the complainants.

We are also faced with a situation where many service providers including Mulago are still stuck in the era of manually managing medical records, which is not only expensive, but also time consuming and frustrating. I would believe that hospitals especially a national referral like Mulago need to adopt modern technology that enables them to quickly and easily capture, organize and process the paper and electronic documents required to deliver care.

Therefore with records secured and involving clients in the management of the information, there will be minimal cases of misunderstanding. If one came up with a complaint, information would be easily got from the database and used to solve what would have been an explosive situation.

Lastly, Mulago will need to cut off all the unnecessary guests it gets on a daily basis under the guise of visiting patients and taking care of the sick. It does not require rocket science to know that many of these are wrong characters waiting to pounce at the earliest opportunity to steal new-borns! If not we shall continue to watch this series and occasion more tears on to families yet the birth of a child is meant to bring joy!

By Kakaire Ayub Kirunda
Email: akakaire@musph.ac.ug

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