Our doctors need more training on how to treat patients’ loved ones

Thursday October 25 2018


A doctor vaccinates a citizenin Kigali, Rwanda. 

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Good service delivery is a vital element of any health system. And it is a fundamental input that determines how citizens actively seek healthcare.

However, assessing quality of care can be difficult because it can cover both the complex processes of evaluating, diagnosing and treating a patient as well as the outcomes of that treatment for the patient.

In most definitions, quality of care is seen to be multidimensional: care is said to be of high quality if it is effective, safe, centred on the patient’s needs and given in a timely fashion.

Recently, a patient’s aunt took to twitter to make allegations of negligence at Masaka Hospital located in Masaka, East of the capital Kigali.

She alleged that her young niece was not only left unattended by the medical doctor on duty, but she was also denied a timely transfer to another hospital.

Her concern caught the attention of the Ministry of Health, which followed up the issue with the Medical Council commissioning an investigation into the conduct of the accused doctor.

Rwanda Today learnt that the investigation by the Medical Council cleared the doctor in question of any wrongdoing, and the doctor is now seeking to be reinstated. However, the family of the victim has maintained its position accusing the doctor of negligence.

While it is expected that the family of the victim may have been overwhelmed by emotions in the process of seeking medical attention, that the family felt their patient was neglected raises concern about the quality of customer service in our hospitals.

In particular, it raises questions about the level of professionalism because by the time a caretaker or next of kin of a patient feels neglected, it may mean that they are not getting the required attention.

As expected, when one has a patient, emotions tend to be high and one would expect that medical professionals would do everything they can to reassure the next of kin that they are doing everything they can to help.

Even in cases where the medical professionals may not have the cure, when they demonstrate that they are doing everything they can, it becomes easier for the next of kin to appreciate whatever the outcome of the diagnosis.

Therefore, it is important that our medical professionals get trained to do more to help patients and their caretakers to feel that they are being listened to and there is commitment to help them despite the prevailing challenges at their work stations including understaffing.

In this particular case, the hospital should make a deliberate effort to reach out to the disgruntled family who still have more questions despite the doctor being cleared of any wrongdoing by the medical council.

This would help to calm and reassure the family and the general public who have still have questions about the quality of service in our healthcare centres and hospitals.

And perhaps more importantly, the Ministry of Health has to do more to enforce quality service and ensuring that healthcare service delivery is organised and centred on the person.