. . . cases pile up
MAFETENG – A Mafeteng District Hospital medical doctor, Dr Igor, faces accusations of gross medical negligence and incompetence by several of patients on whom he performed surgeries. The Ministry of Health has failed to attend to queries raised in relation to the matter. However, Mafeteng Hospital administration staff interviewed by Public Eye during its lengthy investigations into the allegations say their hands are tied because no official complaint has been laid to date.
Most women who have been to the hospital for myomectomy and were treated by Dr Igor narrated their ordeal to Public Eye in several interviews during the course of investigating these claims. The women claim the hospital management turned a blind eye on reported incidents. Dr Igor is a gynecology specialist who has worked in the Mohale’s Hoek and Mafeteng district hospitals.
Public Eye can report that even though these dissatisfied patients have not reported their grievances to the hospital management, management is now aware of the incidents and ended up taking a decision to go through the files of the patients who were assisted by Dr Igor and went on to bring the matter up with the Ministry of Health.
The management has indicated that indeed they have discovered that some patients who were treated by the doctor spend a longer time than usual at the hospital, while others returned for readmission because they had developed complications. The paper can further reveal that following this discovery a decision to send another gynecologist to assess the work of that Dr was taken and the matter is being looked into by Ministry of Health.
In one interview a doctor who has worked with Dr Igor for more than two years while he was serving in both the Mohale’s Hoek and Mafeteng district hospitals shared his experience, but was quick to point out that he does not like to form an opinion on other doctors or nurses in their professional capacity. “…but I can tell you one thing, he is always in a hurry. He does not take his time while operating. If you try to make him aware of something during the operation he becomes irritated,” the doctor said.
Asked what could be prompting such a reaction the doctor said: “I do not know, but I made my own analysis that he is not a team player.” “To do myomectomy operation takes about two to four hours depending on the size and number of fibroids; the least it could take is an hour, but he would take about 15 minutes. His patients would be at the hospital for long or come back shortly after being discharged,” the doctor continued, adding that as colleagues they used to question Igor’s work.
“He does a lot of questionable mistakes because he does not properly follow the procedure. He does not give explanation to his patients or to those responsible to them; it is also not easy to read his medical report,” the doctor added. This doctor, further told Public Eye that they have brought the matter up with the Ministry of Health but no one has been taking these reports seriously.
Rescued from the brink
A woman who was already booked for an operation escaped Dr Igor’s scalpel through the assistance of her sister who already knew ‘scary’ stories about the doctor’s failed surgeries. This source said that when her sister was booked for myomectomy in Mafeteng Hospital in April, she enquired from a nurse she’s acquainted with about who was on duty that week – and when she discovered that it was Dr Igor she determinedly asked her sister to move out of the hospital.
Asked if she explained to her sister why she wanted her to move out she said: “No! I did not have time to negotiate anything with her because she would not understand. I just forced her out and explained later.”
“Did you already know something about Dr Igor at the time?” Public Eye asked. “Yes”, said the source, adding “as a health professional working in this district, I had already heard scary stories about Dr Igor from my acquaintances working in the hospital.”
The patient herself had this to say: “While I arrived at the hospital after I was settled in the ward, I told one of my sisters to tell the one who lives in Mafeteng that I am in hospital and she should visit me; I did not have her contact number as I had just changed phones.”
“Indeed she came and it was late evening during visiting hours. She walked in like a mad woman calling my name as she was walking in the hospital passage. I laughed out loudly with happiness and other patients laughed with me. One even said to me, she sounds like she’s looking for a lost person. Maybe she thinks you are too sick…and we all laughed.
“I responded calling her name and said I am in here. To my surprise when she walked in she looked like she saw a ghost and she harshly asked me to get off the bed and get dressed. As I remained surprised, she took my belongings, threw my dress at me and told me that I would find her outside the hospital gate. She gave me no option at the time,” said the alleged Dr Igor patient.
She said she then dressed up, walked out like she was just a visitor. She learned later why her sister snatched her out of the hospital, and she said even though she has not been to hospital again for myomectomy she will forever be grateful for what her sister did for her.
“I still need to do the operation, but not with Dr Igor,” she matter-of-factly said.
Botched medical operations
A female patient resident in Maseru, but referred to Mafeteng Hospital because of the nature of the surgery recommended, said she went to the health facility on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, for her booked myomectomy appointment. She regrets this day as it is the day when all her health miseries began. She was released from hospital on Friday, November 12, 2021.
“After spending a night at home I felt sick the following day; I was not able to have bowel movement. I figured it must be something that has to so with the operation and had to be normal,” she said.
“On Monday, November 22, 2021, I felt water coming out, it was not urine. It was as though I was pregnant and the water was breaking. I called a nurse at the Mafeteng Hospital and she told me to go back to the hospital the following day,” she said.
The day following her arrival at the hospital the woman said Dr Igor came to check up on her and gave her a bottle to draw that water so he could take it to the laboratory for tests. She said Igor then inserted a urinary catheter into the bladder. “It was so painful, I asked the nurses to assist me loosen maybe to ease the pain, but doctor said they should not do anything,” she recalled hurtfully.
She further said while other patients were being checked on she was only checked for blood pressure, “Dr Igor never came to check up on me. It was the other doctors who came to check on me but they never said anything to me.”
Asked if she ever asked the nurse or the doctors who checked her what the source of the water was, she said none of them gave an explanation as they all said they do not know and are waiting for Dr Igor to explain. “After almost a week in hospital, no one ever cared to explain, they would just told me to wait for Dr Igor,” she added. This patient’s daughter added: “It was now a new week, and I told the nurses that I wanted to meet with the matron but they ignored me. Later another doctor arrived and gave us a referral letter to a private radiologist.”
“We neither got answers from the radiologist. We went to a private gynaecologist who managed to identify that the inside wound was gaping,” explained the daughter of the victim. Yet another woman said she went to the hospital this year on Friday February 25 when she was seven months pregnant, and she felt something like labour pains. She was then checked by Dr Igor.
To her surprise, Dr Igor did not check the baby’s heartbeat; he only performed the vaginal examination and told her to go and take the prescribed medication. She said Dr Igor did not say anything to her and released her to go home. Before she left the hospital she took her medication and hired a taxi to home. “It was amoxicillin and flagella pills. I had not even spent an hour at home when I began to bleed. I went back to the hospital. It was a heavy flow bleeding.
“On my arrival for the second time, I was attended to by Basotho doctors and later Dr Igor arrived,” said the woman. “When he saw me he said I could have died if I did not rush back to hospital.” “How did you feel when he said so?” Public Eye asked. “I was shocked and filled with anger because I was there not long before the incident.”
“I was then taken to theater, Dr Igor was the one who did the operation and I had a stillborn birth. He called my husband in to see me as I was operated. He then showed him the uterus and explained to him that it was too weak and had to be removed,” the woman explained. She added: “My husband told them that he does not know anything medically, so he would take his advice…he gave them the go ahead.” Subsequent to this occasion, the couple said nothing was explained to them.
Her husband then reported the matter to the hospital management but the manager said he could not do anything because Dr Igor is senior to them professionally. The patient said management at the hospital gave them the go-ahead to report Dr Igor to the Ministry of Health headquarters in Maseru. But until the time of going to print, the woman has not lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Health.
Instead, she said she has rather started engaging with lawyers to sue Dr Igor. However, the hospital’s CEO, Dr Mpho Seleke, denied this allegation when approached by Public Eye.
“That is not true, I explained to the patient’s husband that there is an internal review mechanism that the hospital uses to assess the work of our doctors. And I advised him to go ahead and report the matter to the Ministry’s headquarters in Maseru,” Seleke said. Dr Seleke continued that he advised thus because the husband indicated that he wanted to sue the hospital, and “I told him that in such circumstances it is the ministry that has to be sued and not the hospital.”
The woman said two months later after her surgery she began to have some complications, she went to a private doctor who referred her back to Mafeteng Hospital on account that he could not help her with her condition. She narrated that upon arrival at Mafeteng she was again attended to by the Dr Igor, but she was not free anymore. She said: “I now live in pain knowing that I will not have children anymore. We were expecting our second born.”
“He checked me and said I should return to the hospital in August this year. He noted some medication for me but the other doctor erased the prescription saying it’s not necessary.” When asked what her observations of Dr Igor are, the woman could only say she was no longer free to be attended to by him. “I have since learned that he rushes to finish and does not like to take advice from other health professionals working with him.”
The woman further said: “It seems as though people working with him are scared of him because I could see the dissatisfaction of the nurses who admitted me early on the day of the incident, but nobody said anything.”
Contacted to react to these allegations of gross negligence by Dr Igor, the Director General Health Services, Dr ‘Nyane Letsie, referred this reporter to the ministry’s public relations officer ‘Mateboho Mosebekoa who requested for the paper inquiries to be sent to her to forward to the Mafeteng District Medical Officer Dr Ntšasa for a response. “However, complaints reach the ministry through the district health services managers, and as of current she was not aware of such and was not in a position to respond.”