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Minister suspends four over HIV-infected baby

Posted by From Collins Olayinka (Abuja) on 2006/06/21 | Views: 480 |

Minister suspends four over HIV-infected baby

FOUR medical officers who are allegedly responsible for the predicament of one Baby Eniola who was infected with the HIV/AIDS virus due to negligence have been sent on compulsory leave by the Health Minister, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo.....

FOUR medical officers who are allegedly responsible for the predicament of one Baby Eniola who was infected with the HIV/AIDS virus due to negligence have been sent on compulsory leave by the Health Minister, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo.

Though where Baby Eniola got infected is yet to be established, the four medical officers sanctioned are staff of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) where the baby was taken to after delivery at a private hospital in Lagos

Speaking in Abuja yesterday, the minister said the move was in strict compliance with the Federal Government's on-going reform agenda in the health sector.

He added that negligence, if not tamed, is capable of derailing the programme, hence all efforts are being made to sanction whoever will form a clog in the wheel of the programme. He reiterated that the little attention being paid to negligence in medical circle is unacceptable.

Lambo explained that the compulsory leave is to prevent them from hampering the work of the expert committee set up by him to unravel the circumstances surrounding the infection of Baby Eniola.

His words: "The practice of not bringing cases of negligence to the attention of the ministry immediately they happen only for us to learn of them in the pages of newspapers after many months or a couple of years is totally unacceptable.

"I have, therefore, sent a circular to all Chief Executives and Chairmen of the Boards of our tertiary health institutions that: cases of negligence should be totally avoided.

"When any case of negligence occurs, it should be immediately reported by management to the Board and copied to the Honourable Minister of Health and investigation of such a case should be completed within two weeks with recommendations on punishments of those found culpable and how to avoid a recurrence made to the Board and the Minister of Health."

Explaining the circumstances surrounding the infection, Lambo said: "The baby was delivered on the 25th November, 2005 in a private hospital, New Haven Hospital, Alagbado, Lagos, by an Emergency Caesarean Section at the gestational age of 28 weeks, due to the hypertension in pregnancy associated with convulsion in the matter.

"Initial clinical assessment under the care of a consultant paediatrician showed that the baby was premature (weighed 1.3 kg), had respiratory distress and was jaundiced. The baby was also adjudged to have low blood sugar presentation. Standard protocols for the treatment of jaundice in the new-born baby, which included phototherapy, was adopted in the management of Baby Eniola.

"It was, however, observed that the severity of the jaundice was increasing in spite of the treatment protocol. This prompted the need to have an Exchange Blood Transfusion (ETB) done. This involves the exchange of twice the blood volume of the baby with an adult fresh blood. The effect of ETB is to dilute the chemicals of jaundice, which is produced by the fragmentation of red blood cells of the baby, thereby saving her from brain damage.

"Baby Eniola was noticed to have oral infection in addition to poor growth, two weeks later after admission and nine days after the ETB. This prompted the request for HIV/AIDS screening on the baby after discussing it with her parents. She was confirmed to be HIV- positive on 20th December, 2005."

The Minister of Health added that when tested for HIV, Baby Eniola's mother came out negative. The outcome, Lambo said, elicited a series of questions.

"Could it be that Baby Eniola was transfused with infected blood? Could it be that Baby Eniola was a case of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS while mother was in the window period (during which the antibodies to HIV are not easily detectable)?" the minister asked.

He disclosed that though a panel was set up to investigate the matter by the board of the hospital, the outcome of the panel which identified what it termed "a system failure" failed to address the problem hence his decision to raised a new five man panel of experts to dig deeper into the matter. Members of the new panel comprised, Professor (Mrs.) Kike Osinusi (chairman), Prof. Y. Aken'ova, Prof. G. Okafor, Mr. Manason Rubaina and Dr. J.B Adetunji to serve as the secretary.

The panel, among other tasks, is saddled with identifying those who were involved in the treatment of Baby Eniola, review the results of the two other panels set up earlier and to make recommendation for the prevention of reoccurrence. The panel has two weeks to submit its report.

To get to the roots of the matter, Lambo urged the parents of Baby Eniola to submit themselves for HIV/AIDS confirmatory test.

He said: "The report I have is that they (Baby Eniola's parents) have refused to submit themselves for confirmatory HIV/AIDS test. Unless they do this, it may not be possible to get to the root of this matter and lay it to rest finally. To date, our investigation has been hampered by inability to re-confirm the HIV status of Baby Eniola's mother, inability to perform the relevant DNA, inability to locate and interview the supposed donor of the blood with which the baby was transfused and inability to test the pre-transfusion sample of Baby Eniola."

The minister also painted a grotesque picture of Baby Kehinde Babalola who was admitted into the University College Hospital, Ibadan on the 26th of May 2004 with diarrhoea, but ended up with the amputation of his right hand.

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