Doctors chase away patients

SOME doctors at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) are allegedly chasing away patients who come late for their review appointments.

And UTH management has accused some junior doctors of practising such unprofessional conduct.

The practice has forced some patients to sleep in queues to avoid being sent away.

Apparently due to a shortage of personnel, the doctors who conduct early morning clinics are the same ones who conduct ward rounds, meaning that clinics start before 07:00hrs.

As a result, a number of patients are now being forced to sleep at the casualty and visitors bay to join the queues for review from as early as 05.00hrs.

According to patients interviewed at the UTH, some doctors refuseto attend to patients who report “late” for review to reduce on the number of people to attend to in a day because of low staffing.

“We had to go back home without being seen by the doctors last week (Monday) because we arrived after 07:00 hrs.

“It was not the nurses who told us to go back home. It was the doctor himself who said there were many other patients who were waiting to be attended to in the wards and because we came in after 07:00hrs, we just had to go back home and return the following week,” Ms Grace Mulobela said.

Ms Mulobela complained that with her brother’s condition, there was need for constant monitoring of the situation, and that the decision to turn away patients most of whom struggled to find transport money was unfortunate.

A number of patients have resolved to spend nights at the casualty reception and the mothers’ shelter to avoid missing the doctors’ appointments.

One relative of a patient narrated how they were turned away because she arrived around 07.30 hours.

She said some patients had difficulties in walking, which contributed to their late arrival at the health institution.

“But we were still sent back home without being attended to,” she complained.

Ms Mulobela said according to the doctors, there were many other patients in the wards who needed to be seen after 09:00hrs during rounds, which would have to be delayed if the doctors were to wait for all review patients to come in at their own time.

But UTH management said junior doctors had a tendency of initiating their own work programmes without express authority from their superiors.

Hospital public relations manager Mwenya Mulenga said chasing away patients was common among junior medical personnel, including some nurses and hospital clerks.

He said management would address the matter at its next clinical meeting which was attended by all heads of departments so that if it was happening elsewhere, the practice could come to an end immediately.

“Some junior doctors tend to make up such decisions without the knowledge of their superiors in the departments.

“But our response is that we will address this with all the heads of departments and ensure that if it is happening anywhere in the hospital, it must not continue.

“However, there is a general practice that for medical review, each doctor should see a specific number of patients in a day and when that number is reached, those who come late are given the next available appointment date, but not that even before the number is met, patients are told to go away,” he said.

Earlier in the year, UTH managing g director Lackson Kasonka was on record assuring the general public that patients seeking medical attention would not be turned away.