Children in paediatric wards at the George Mukhari Hospital in Pretoria are often misdiagnosed or given the wrong dosage, resulting in “some level of harm”.
According to research conducted and recorded in the South African Journal of Child Health, pharmacists spent 16 weeks in four paediatric wards and detected 633 medication errors – an average of 2.9 per patient.
A large number of the errors involved incorrect dosing, followed by omission of medication and medicine being given at the wrong time.
“In one in three patients, the error resulted in ‘some level of harm’. Although none suffered permanent harm or death, the pharmacists had to intervene to prevent some major errors,” Democratic Alliance shadow MEC of health Jack Bloom said.
A total of 106 errors were made in the hospital’s 55-bed neonatal intensive care unit. In addition, 51% of administration errors were captured and a further 47% prescribing errors.
Some of the errors included nurses forgetting to order antibiotics, drips not inserted on patients to get medication, medication given at 2pm instead of 10am, antibiotics given eight-hourly instead of six-hourly, medicine mixed with tap water instead of sterile water and one needle used to reconstitute all intravenous medication for the ward.
According to the research, led by Archele Truter of the pharmacy department at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University adjacent to the hospital, the medication errors in the neonatal ICU and paediatric wards were higher than values reported elsewhere in the world.
“Most errors occur during prescription and administration of medication. Dosing errors should be introduced alongside regular discussions on preventive measures among the multidisciplinary team,” her research concluded.
Bloom highlighted the possibility that similar errors could be occurring at other hospitals in Gauteng.
But the department seemed unaware of the research, telling The Citizen the report would be looked into.
“If indeed it is true what has been raised in the South African Journal of Child Health, that is worrisome to us as the department. We will engage the journal and get to the bottom of the issues that have been raised,” said spokesperson Prince Hamnca.