Rwandan victims of bad drug await justice

People who suffered devastating side effects after they were injected with a flawed anaesthetic at a Kigali hospital have accused the Ministry of Health and the private health facility of concealing toxicology results of the test carried out to determine the dangerous element in the offensive drug.

The victims said they lodged a case, classified in the civil category, in Gasabo court two weeks ago but are yet to be given a file number or summonses issued against those implicated. The court is due to give the first hearing date on Monday.

In the collective lawsuit against La Croix du Sud Hospital, the plaintiffs are demanding damages and reimbursement of their medical expenses. They also want the hospital to come clean on the toxicity of the drug so that in case of long-term effects they will be protected.

“We have already lodged a lawsuit through our lawyer,” said Deus Rugigana, one of the victims who is representing the group.

“We wrote to the hospital wanting to settle the matter out of court but they didn’t respond, so went ahead and filed the case.”

Both the hospital, which is located in Kisementi, and the ministry have been conspicuously quiet about the toxicity results. The victims were injected with the drug in March but, up to now, they have not been contacted by either party.

However, Nathan Mugume, the director of health communications at the Ministry of Health, said in an interview: “If they feel they were victimised, there are many options to take there are different levels they can take this issue to.

“The ministry does not handle malpractice issues.”

Suspicions first arose after more than five people on whom Lidocaine was administered developed major complications. The drug was taken to Kenya for analysis but the results of the tests are yet to be released to the victims.

In an interesting revelation, however, Dr Jean Nyirinkwaya, the gynaecologist owner of the hospital, told Rwanda Today that they actually received the results and handed them over to the ministry.

This information made an infuriated Mr Rugigana to comment: “I wonder how they could get the results of the bad drug they injected us with and not even contact us to tell us what it contained.

“It’s obvious no one cares about us not even Minisante (Ministry of Health). “If the Ministry of Health claims to be responsible for the safety of the people, how come they have not contacted us? How do they assess the situation when they don’t know what is going on.”

Victims are ‘worried’

Mr Rugigana said he is still undergoing surgeries in Nairobi, with his next procedure set for February. Dr Claude Safari, whose wife is also a victim, said: “The hospital just told us that the drug had a strange element.

“We have seen the immediate effect how about the long-term effects?

“The wounds have healed but my wife developed a strange swelling around the area where the drug was injected. We are worried.”

He added that the saga exposed a lack of control over drug imports: “Everything else passes through Rwanda Bureau of Standards but for drugs they just come straight from manufacturers and are used by hospitals.”

Dr Nyirinkwaya nonetheless defended his hospital against professional liability.

“The results showed that there was something wrong with the drug,” he said. “We did what we were supposed to do.”

SOURCE: THE EAST AFRICAN