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Mengo hospital cleared in brain surgery deaths


State minister for Health Sarah Achieng Opendi has confirmed that five patients died out of the 31 patients that underwent surgery during the brain surgery camp at Mengo hospital in Kampala last October.

The camp was conducted by both local and foreign doctors from United States of America to work on complex neurosurgeries which would otherwise have been referred abroad.

State minister for Health Sarah Achieng Opendi presenting the report

Out of the 145 patients that turned up in the camp for screening by the team of Mengo, Uganda and Duke University neurosurgeons, 31 patients had surgery.

“All the 31 patients were operated successfully with no adverse events. However, five patients died following complications in the late postoperative period. The mortality figures were comparable to those experienced in earlier neurosurgical camps conducted in Mulago National Referral hospital and Mbarara Regional Referral hospital. The team was working on complex cases although we are not saying that people should die. But when you go in the theatre for operation, you either pull it off successfully to the end or after successful operation such complications including mortality may occur,” Opendi said in Kampala today, releasing a report of the investigation into the deaths following the neurosurgical camp.

The Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council (UMDP) investigated the matter. UMDP specialists on the investigation team included Prof Joel Okullo, the chairperson UMDP; Dr Cephas Mijumbi, senior consultant anesthesiologist; Dr Olivia Kituuka, the president of association of surgeons of Uganda; Dr Jane Nakibuuka, consultant physician /head general Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Mulago hospital; Dr Katumba Sentongo, the registrar UMDPC; and Doreen Nanvule, the legal officer UMDPC.

Opendi said the report has been released to clear the air on earlier media reports that Mengo hospital organized a neurosurgical camp where 30 patients died after brain surgery since the team of doctors who conducted the surgeries were not qualified.

“It is not true as alleged by some media houses that all the 31 patients worked on died. However the investigating team noted weaknesses in documentation of patients’ files,” Opendi said.

“The investigating team therefore recommended that documentation in all operational areas should be done clearly and concisely. They should also re-constitute and urgently operationalize the infection prevention and control committee of Mengo hospital. Mengo hospital should ensure continuous training and retention of ICU and High Dependency Unit (HDU) staff,” she said.

Opendi said there was adequate preparation for the camp and the investigating team established that the equipment and supplies were adequately provided in the theatre, ICU and HDU for the neurosurgical camp.

She said, the council noted that all the health care workers involved in that neurosurgical camp were qualified and were duly registered by their respective regulatory councils which include neurosurgeons, intensivists, anesthetists, nurses, biomedical engineers/technologists and allied health workers.

“The visiting team of neurosurgeons had held 11 similar neurosurgical camps in the country... 10 have been conducted at Mulago National Referral Hospital and one at Mbarara Regional Referral hospital in September 2016,” she said.

The Ministry also released all the guidelines to guide all the medical camps conducted in the country for planning and management of successful camps. The guidelines include vetting the applications to ensure that the camp will be beneficial, effective and safe.

“That the camp ensure safety of the patients and other participants in camp, ensure adequate follow up of patients and linkages after health care and ensure a system of management of complications and emergencies,” she said.


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