Paidamoyo Chipunza Health Reporter
AT least one person died and another had her uterus perforated last year due to incompetence by a medical doctor, while 38 other doctors were found guilty of incompetence, unethical conduct and unprofessionalism by the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe.
The cases occurred last year alone and the medical doctors appeared separately for disciplinary hearings.
It emerged that last year alone, the council received 93 complaints against doctors.
Of the 93 cases, 73 went through the preliminary enquiries committee while the remaining 20 were dismissed due to lack of evidence.
From the 73 cases handled by the committee, 40 were referred to the disciplinary committee and 38 were found guilty.
There are 2 412 doctors on the council’s register.
The disciplinary hearings came in the wake of the suspension of two Congolese doctors who were based at Gweru Provincial Hospital for poor performance of duty associated with incompetence, resulting in the death of the one person and complications in many other patients.
Sources from the health sector in the Midlands Province said due to incompetence, one of the doctors (name withheld) poorly performed an operation on an expecting woman, resulting in her death.
On a different date, the same doctor improperly managed another female patient while carrying out a simple procedure, resulting in worsening of the patient’s condition.
The patient needed an evacuation of the uterus, but ended up with a perforated uterus and the sigmoid during the cleaning process.
The sources further claimed that evidence of incompetence and negligence resulting in deaths have also been submitted to the Health and Child Care Ministry in relation to the second Congolese doctor.
“The doctors have since been suspended pending advice from the Medical and Dental Practitioner’s Council of Zimbabwe,” said a source.
MDPCZ registrar Mrs Josephine Mwakutuya confirmed receiving complaints regarding the two Congolese doctors and said the disciplinary process was underway.
“Since council does not employ any doctors, it is the prerequisite of the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Health Services Board to determine the employment status of any doctor when an issue of discipline arises,” said Mrs Mwakutuya.
She said on an annual basis, the council de-registers an average of two doctors in very extreme cases, adding that up to 10 doctors may be required to undergo re-training if found guilty while other senior doctors are demoted to lower grades.
“De-registering (striking off) doctors is regarded as a measure of last resort,” she said.
Mrs Mwakutuya said whenever a complaint is received by the council, a committee of doctors carries out a preliminary evaluation of the facts.
If there is any possibility that there is any substance to the complaint, then the matter is referred to a disciplinary committee, she said.
She said practitioners who were dissatisfied with the findings of disciplinary committee could appeal, firstly to the Health Professions Authority of Zimbabwe, and then to the High Court and Supreme Court.
Mrs Mwakutuya said it was imperative to note that health care was a service industry which did not generate income and performance of the sector hinged on availability of resources.
Health analysts said the figure from the MDPCZ could just be an under statement as most cases went unreported.
Community Working Group on Health director Mr Itai Rusike said the majority of the people who sought treatment from public health institutions were not aware of procedures taken to air grievances.
“Government should speed up the finalisation of the Health Services Charter which stipulates services expected from a service provider and also what is expected of the client,” said Mr Rusike.
“Because of lack of such tools, most people are unaware when and where to report cases. There are a lot more cases which go unreported and those recorded by the council are just a fraction of the actual cases of negligence or incompetence against doctors.”
Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights chairperson Dr Ruth Bonde echoed Mr Rusike’s sentiments, saying there were no clear lines to follow when one had a complaint.