By Petronella Sibeene
Suspected negligence by nurses at Katutura State Hospital may have contributed to the death of an infant bitten by a mountain cobra.
According to NBC TV news and the mother of the infant, instead of treating the case as an emergency, nurses reportedly ridiculed the mother whom they told to ‘queue.’
The hapless mother watched as her baby succumbed to the deadly effects of snake venom as a group of nurses shocked a queue of patients who witnessed the baby dying in its mother’s arms with the nurses claiming they could not treat the baby’s case as an emergency.
The death of the baby that frothed and bled through the mouth and the nose while crying was apparently brought about by an attack involving a cobra at Havanah Settlement on Saturday at 17h30.
The incident could result in the axing of the nurses in question, says Dr Richard Kamwi, the Health Minister.
The three-day baby was bitten on the head by the highly venomous reptile but after the infant was rushed to hospital, ineffectual nurses failed to use common sense.
“Only when my baby started bleeding from the nose and mouth, that is when the nurses tried to attend to me but it was too late. I had been queuing with the baby in my arms for more than two hours,” said Pascalia Endjala (24), narrating her painful and traumatic ordeal two days after the death of her second child born at the same hospital.
This is contrary to the nursing service pledge which states that, “I solemnly declare that my ultimate responsibility as a nurse is to promote and safeguard the wellbeing of my clients … my practice will be founded on respect … I will endeavour to understand and address my clients with compassion and empathy … I accept it as my duty to protect the interest of my clients … I will comply to the moral, legal and professional standards”.
It all happened last Saturday at about 17h30 in Havanah Settlement when the young mother tried to rock her then three days old baby and twin sons – almost two years old – to sleep.
A few minutes after lying down on the mattress, her daughter whom she named Mary Kafute Netumba started crying uncontrollably.
“When I lifted the baby, I saw a snake with its head up. It spit in my left eye but I had to quickly take the children out,” she recounted.
She rushed her baby to Katutura State Hospital but what seemed to have been an emergency to her was ‘just any other incidence’ for medical officials on duty.
“By 18h10 we were at the hospital and when I told the nurses that the baby had been bitten by a snake, they responded that I was just alarmed by the baby’s cry and what I was telling them at the time was a lie,” says Endjala.
Neighbours even went to the extent of taking the snake to the hospital in an attempt to help trained medical officers know the type of snake so as to dispense the right snake antidote but that did not help matters as the nurses dragged their feet until it was too late.
Another nurse allegedly unsymphatheticaly remarked, “You should start living in proper houses, that is why snakes get inside your kambashus”.
Endjala said only when the baby started bleeding and frothing from the mouth did the nurses realise how urgent and serious the case was. But it was too late – the baby died.
“They took the child and we (her and baby’s father) were taken to a room where one doctor told us that the baby had died,”she said.
A snake expert, who preferred to remain anonymous, said it was unacceptable for a patient with snakebite to be made to wait before receiving first aid or treatment.
The expert added that the incident might not have ended in tragedy if first aid was rendered.
“It would have made a difference if the baby was attended to in time. The outcome would have probably been different,” said a medical expert.
The Minister of Health and Social Services told New Era that a team has been appointed to investigate the case.
“They are not dismissed yet because they are still being investigated to see if there was negligence. Should they be found guilty, there is no reason why they should work. That is negligence of its highest order,” the minister said.
Kamwi added, “This year I am not there to protect those that want to do things their own way. Things have to be different.”
Deputy secretary general of a union that represents nurses, the Namibia Public Workers Union (NAPWU), Gabes Andumba, said although the case is still under investigation by the ministry, should the allegations be confirmed, such behaviour is uncalled for.
He could not comment further saying, “It will be prudent to wait for the outcome of the investigation. At the moment I can not say much”.
Nurses’ Solemn Oath
Meaning of the Lamp in Pledge of Service
– The lamp in your hand is a symbol of those who keep vigil over the sick
– It is the symbol of the philosophy of the nursing profession that those who nurse should be a light unto others
– It indicates that you are prepared to develop your profession and to practice in the light of the sciences which are building blocks of medical and nursing sciences
– It confirms that you are prepared to carry out your professional acts in accordance with the legal and ethical codes of your profession and that you are prepared to care for man in his uniqueness with knowledge and compassion.
– It is the symbol that indicates that you are prepared to be the following for those who need help;
– the eyes of the blind who are sick
– the power of the movement for those who cannot move
– the hands of those who do not have strength to care for themselves
– the comforter of those who are alone or grieve
– the nourisher of those who can not eat
– the protector of those who are helpless and those who are vulnerable
– the mind of those who are unconscious
– the one who has to ward off the hazards threatening the sick
– the intermediary between the doctor, other members of health team and the patient
– the advocate of those who have health problems
– It confirms that you as a professional nurse are prepared to serve as a role model of your profession
– I give you the reveille of nursing:
“Let the oil of knowledge and of love always ensure that your lamp burns brightly.”