Snakebite Death Probe Begins

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By Petronella Sibeene

WINDHOEK

The Health Professionals Council of Namibia has launched an investigation into alleged negligence by nurses at the Katutura State Hospital where a three-day-old baby who was bitten by a snake was allegedly left to die at the casualty department.

The board mandated to protect the public and investigate allegations of unprofessional conduct in the medical field in Namibia, on Friday appealed to anyone who witnessed the incident to assist the council with evidence on the case.

Health Professions Council of Namibia is made up of the Medical and Dental Council of Namibia and the Nursing Council of Namibia.

Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, confirmed to New Era that on Friday all the files containing reports from the hospital were forwarded to the council for thorough investigations into the case.

“We handed over the case to the Medical Council because we cannot investigate ourselves. This competent institution will pronounce itself once done and should a culprit be found or should it be found that there was negligence involved, the ministry will surely take action,” he said.

Three-day-old Mary Kafute Netumba died on February 16 after she was bitten by a snake at her mother’s dwelling in the informal settlement of Havanah.

It is alleged that when the parents rushed the baby to hospital for medical attention, the nurses instead of treating the baby, ridiculed the mother and insisted she queued.

The alleged behaviour by nurses on duty puzzled other patients who were in the queue.

“Only when my baby started bleeding from the nose and mouth did the nurses try to attend to her but it was too late,” grief-stricken Pascalia Endjala, mother of the deceased baby told New Era.

Another nurse allegedly remarked, “You should start living in proper houses, that is why snakes get inside your kambashus.”

Snake experts have said a snakebite patient should never be made to wait for treatment.

The fact that the baby could still be alive for more than two hours after the bite is an indication that the venom from the reptile was not that strong and an urgent response in such a case would have had a different outcome.

The incident has raised public outcry, with some sections questioning the nursing profession’s code of ethics.

“While respecting the sentiments of the Namibian nation, the Medical and Dental Council and the Nursing Council of Namibia humbly request the nation to be calm while investigations are in progress,” a statement issued by the councils on Friday said.

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