A male nurse at a private medical centre in Domboshava is under investigation after a patient he attended to died from what has been described as inadequate and wrong treatment. The patient’s family alleges that the nurse described himself as a doctor and only said he was a nurse after their relative’s death.
Lawrence Zinaka (58) qualified as a nurse some 30 years ago and acquired the nickname “Chiremba” at Enliven Medical Centre in Domboshava, where patients would consult him.
Nurses attend to patients in many high-density surgeries and it’s standard practice at local clinics, with the nurse expected to refer the patient to a qualified doctor for more serious conditions or when there might be complications.
It is legal, but someone who is not a registered medical practitioner cannot describe themselves as one.
On January 5 this year, Zinaka attended to Ms Taurai Meza, a patient with a history of congestive cardiac arrest, who was brought to the surgery by her relatives complaining of chest pains, a dry cough and vomiting, among other symptoms.
The relatives wanted to see a doctor and they were referred to Zinaka who was in the consulting room. The relatives believed that Zinaka was a doctor and allege that they were led to believe this.
Zinaka diagnosed the patient and gave her a prescription. After she took the drugs, Ms Meza’s health deteriorated and she died.
Ms Meza’s relatives have since reported Zinaka to the police for what they allege is impersonating a medical doctor. Investigations are still in progress.
Contacted for comment, Zinaka said the allegations of pretence were false and that he never impersonated a doctor.
“Their relative had a heart condition and they brought her here. When they arrived, they did not ask to see a doctor. As a registered nurse, I saw that the patient needed help and I was there and willing to help.
“All that I did was within my mandate. I prescribed medication because I am allowed to do so. But I never told them or anyone that I was or I am a medical doctor. That is false.
“Most of the people at work call me ‘Chiremba’ and it has come to be my nickname. Maybe the relatives heard them calling Chiremba and thought I was the doctor. But I never introduced myself as a doctor,” he said.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed that the police received an impersonation report.
Goromonzi district medical officer Dr Steve Karim, who was asked to review the patient management plan in respect of the late Ms Meza, found Zinaka’s treatment wanting.
Considering Ms Meza was known to be a cardiac failure patient, she was supposed to be admitted to a hospital because of the nature of drugs prescribed by Zinaka.
“I was asked by a law officer to review a patient management plan and implications thereof in respect to a private medical facility (Enliven Medical Centre) in my area of jurisdiction.
“The following are my observations, the person was given intravenous fluids, a total of two litres to run at a rate of one litre per hour. This is despite the fact that the patient is a known congestive cardiac failure patient. This intervention has potential to worsen cardiac failure because of fluid overload
“The patient was given frusemide which is a diuretic whose effect is to accelerate fluids loss. This demonstrates clear contradiction with giving intravenous fluids.
“The patient was prescribed two courses of intravenous antibiotics for three days. Patients who are deemed severe enough to warrant intravenous antibiotics should be offered hospital admission. The management plan does not indicate offer for admission.”
Dr Cuthbert Mudimu, who is in charge of the private surgery, said Zinaka had been suspended to allow internal investigations.
“He is allowed to prescribe and can be consulted. He will only call the doctor on issues that he cannot manage, especially major operations.
“For now, the nurse has since been suspended to allow investigations to proceed. I cannot comment on the issue of impersonation. I think the nurse is in a better position to do that.”
Mr Alouis Saizi, a relative to the late Ms Meza, said Zinaka gave them the impression he was a doctor and never introduced himself as a nurse.
“On several occasions his workmates were referring to him as Chiremba and he would respond. They would seek his input and advice every time especially when they were attending to my sister. I also called and referred to him as Chiremba on several occasions and he was responding to that. As relatives, we were convinced that our sister was being attended to by a doctor.
“He also never introduced himself as a nurse. He was not in a uniform. He had his own clothes, with a stethoscope hanging on his neck, the way doctors do,” said Mr Aluois Saizi.
After giving Ms Meza some medicine, Zinaka advised the family to go back home, saying she would recover at home.
“We went back home grudgingly, but along the way I noticed that my sister’s condition was deteriorating drastically. I drove back to the medical centre where I approached Zinaka and asked him to see my sister again because she was no longer able to speak.
“I requested him to refer my sister to a bigger hospital, which he agreed but did not indicate his designation on the referral papers. I quizzed him on that aspect, that is when he revealed that he was a nurse not a doctor.
“By the time we were quarrelling, my sister was already dead. We took Zinaka to the police for impersonation. At the police station, he told the officers that everything he did was instructed by his employer, who is a doctor.
“The police called the doctor who came and denied ever giving any instructions to Zinaka, on that particular day and for that patient,” said Mr Saizi.
He added that after some interrogation with the police, Zinaka later revealed that he did not receive any instructions from the doctor, but wanted only to assist.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) president Mr Enock Dongo said his organisation does not support any nurse who impersonates a medical doctor and wants the events at the clinic investigated.
“We do not support any nurse who impersonates medical doctors. Nurses should be proud of their profession. They should love it.”