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KNH boss sent on leave over head surgery on wrong patient

Kenyatta National Hospital chief executive and her deputy, the Director of Clinical Services, were sent on compulsory leave to allow investigations into a surgery mix up.

Health CS Sicily Kariuki made the announcement to send home Ms Lily Koros and her deputy, Dr Bernard Githae, on Friday following public uproar raised by the surgery saga broken by the Nation.

On Thursday evening, Ms Koros had suspended four medical staff, including a neurosurgeon, who performed a head surgery on a wrong patient.

Speaking at the referral facility on Friday evening, Ms Kariuki said that the compulsory leave was meant to pave way for further investigations on how the error occurred.


“The information so far available to me points to a possible case of serious medical malpractice or a medical error due to non-adherence to patient safety protocols at this hospital, an equally serious matter,” said Ms Kariuki while announcing the dismissal of the two officials.

After further consultation with a source privy to the matter, the Nation can exclusively report that it is believed the error emanated from tagging of patients as names of the two, who were coincidentally unconscious at the time of admission and operation, are identical.

“That such an incident can occur at our biggest referral and teaching hospital is totally unacceptable especially coming soon after other reported cases touching on patient safety in the last one month,” added Ms Kariuki.

She went ahead to ask the management board to conduct investigations and table a report before the end of next week.

“I have also asked them bring in external auditors to audit patient safety and report back with their findings. It is not going to be business as usual,” she said.

The audit, she added, must cover all areas dealing with patient identification, staff communication, surgical safety and anaesthesia as well as prevention of hospital acquired infections in patients, among other areas.


The Cabinet Secretary named Dr John Ong’ech, a senior gynaecologist and obstetrician and Dr Thomas Mutie, a physician, to take up the positions of CEO and director of clinical services in acting capacity.

While issuing the directives, the new CS also asked the Kenya Medical Practitioner’s and Dentist Board (KMPDB) and the Nursing Council to immediately take up the matter and initiate investigations against the health workers.

She, however, said that the move made by the hospital to interdict the four staffers, including the neurosurgeon registrar who works under the supervision of a consultant was a “good decision”.

Asked why the consultant, who the registrar was reporting to was not punished, Ms Kariuki said: “I came to elevate this matter to the board level and that is why you can see we have taken action. I took the necessary action I thought ought to have been taken.”


During Ms Koros’ four-year tenure at the facility, KNH has been in the limelight both for making major milestones and significant goofs in the management of health services offered to patients who walked past its gates.

In January, the Nation highlighted the plight of patients at the facility after two key machines had broken down leaving doctors with limited options for diagnosing illnesses and treating patients.

Soon after this, the hospital was accused of mistreating its patients, with claims of new mothers being raped arising.

And before the dust could settle on the matter, a woman sneaked out of the referral hospital with a two-week-old baby while the mother was being treated.