A DOCTOR told a Coroner’s Inquiry yesterday that a new batch of the drug propofol caused the death of a teenager and two others last year at the Port Moresby General Hospital in Papua New Guinea.
Dr Teno Kemo, a specialist on anesthesia who has been practising for 13 years, was explaining to the inquiry the death of 14-year-old Rex Wanzing, and two others who underwent surgery at the hospital last August.
“We realised that something was wrong with the use of propofol when the patients died on Thursday Aug 12, 2021 after the new batch was administered,” she said.
The inquiry was chaired by Senior Magistrate Josephine Kilage assisted by Magistrates Annie Turi, Sandy Tiankin and Seth Tanei at the Port Moresby District Court.
The doctors who testified included the hospital chief executive officer Dr. Paki Molumi, Dr Sidney James, Dr Arnold Waine, Dr Kemo and Dr Priscilla Nonge.
Sir Arnold Amet who represented the Wanzing family as a friend asked Dr Teno why they had administered an additional 40mg of propofol on Wanzing.
Dr Teno said the drug was given to children above 10 years during surgery. The additional 40mg was given because there was a delayed recovery and the oxygen in his blood was dropping.
Dr. Teno said however she had no direct contact with Wanzing and the two others who died that day.
Magistrate Turi ask Dr. Teno how often were doctors checking up on Wanzing when they noticed that the new batch of propofol had caused allergy reaction and side effects to the other patients.
Dr. Teno said there were nurses and medical officers stationed to respond to the patients that day.
Magistrate Turi said the death should have been avoided if there were medical doctors and nurses available and responding fast knowing that Wanzing was deemed critical as stated in the report.
“It is evident in the statement that the medical officers were not consistent with the observation as you have explained,” she said.
Dr Teno said Wanzing’s temperature was very high after he was given the additional 40mg of propofol.
She said the two doctors involved in the surgery of Wanzing and the other patients who passed away were Dr Arnold Waine and Dr. Sidney James.
“They were responsible for the surgery of the other two patients who died that day when the new propofol batch was administered,” she said.
Dr.Waine said he had no direct contact with Wanzing that day as he was attending to patients in another theatre.
Dr James said his field of expertise did not have any direct or indirect response to the case of Wanzing and he was not aware of the procedures involved leading to his death.
“I was not aware of what happened as I went home early after work and was informed the next day of the deaths,” he said.
Magistrate Kilage told lawyer Lillian Kauba representing the hospital’s doctors to inform the two doctors to appear again before the coronial inquiry on Wednesday (tomorrow) because they did not disclose the information when they testified earlier.
Dr. Teno said the new batch of propofol had been checked by the Health Department quality assurance team before use.
She said as an end-user of the drugs, she was now scared to deal with them.
“The (health department) quality assurance should check properly and test drugs with the area medical store to ensure that they are in good term before we use them on patients,” she said.’
“Also increase the number of hospital staff and improve our critical response to patients.”
Magistrate Kilage said the inquiry would summon the state-solicitor and the health secretary to the inquiry if they did not provide the independent inquiry report prepared by the health department on the matter.
Dr. Molumi said the independent investigation carried out by the PMGH board chairman was to understand what caused the deaths.
“The report from the board chairman included all the statements from the doctors to help the health secretary with their external investigation which is compiled in the independent inquiry report,” he told the panel.
The National / PNG Health Watch
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