Malawi clinician arrested for sexually assaulting woman under ‘conscious sedation’

Police in Mzuzu have arrested a Clinical Officer at Mzuzu Central Hospital on charges that he sexually assaulted a patient Tuesday morning in the consultation room after he sedated her on the pretext that he was giving her medicine for her ailment.

Mzuzu Police Station Public Relations Officer Maurice Chapola in a statement released on Wednesday confirmed the arrest of the Clinician, Hope Chipwatali 36, Chimbia Village Traditional Authority Kaphuka in Dedza District saying he took advantage of the patient’s mental illness and raped her.

Hospital sources told Nyasa Times that the patient has since been put on Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) because the Clinician is already on life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) PEP is short-term antiretroviral treatment given within 72 hours to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection after potential exposure, either occupationally or through sexual intercourse.

Woman patient abused by health worker

Woman patient abused by health worker

Sources told Nyasa Times that Chapwatali gave the patient a sedative drug called Diazepam, which acts fast if given in the veins (IV) rather than Inter Muscularly (IM) or orally.

Police have since charged Chapwatali with the offence of ‘Defilement of an Imbecile’ contrary to section 139 of the penal code and attracts a maximum sentence of imprisonment for 14 year.

Hospital records indicate that the victim [name shielded]was brought to the Referral Hospital on 20th January 2013 because of mental health problems following a prolonged altercation with her husband in South Africa.

“The duty nurse Jean Vinkhumbo picked [the victim] to the treatment/consultation room where she left her with the suspect and went out of the room for other commitments.

“But after a prolonged stay outside the consultation room, the duty nurse thought of checking the patient and she abruptly entered the examination room using the other door which Chapwatali forgot to lock, only to discover that Chapwatali was busy pumping an unconscious patient,” Chapola said.

He said Vinkhumbo got shocked and reported what she saw to her superiors but when the group rushed to the room to verify, Chapwatali had already dispatched the unconscious patient for admission at the Female medical Ward.

Nyasa T imes sources said hospital authorities did not confront Chapwatali but ordered tests to verify the sexual assault.

“The results found evidence of forced penetration and traces of semen. But knowing that Chapwatali was on ART, then informed  the patient relatives that she was to be pit on PEP immediately and they later informed the Police of what had happened,” our source said.

This is not the first time for Chipwatali  to be involved in abusing patients. In 2005,  while working as a clinician at Blantyre’s main Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, was caught with his private parts exposed, while attending to a female patient whom he had anaesthetised.

Another female patient also complained that she was raped by a medical worker while she was under anaesthesia.  During a parade of suspects, the patient identified Chipwatali as the offender and some nurses corroborated her story.

The case was referred to the Medical Council of Malawi but he was acquitted on technical grounds.

Chipwatali was, however, severely reprimanded with recommendations that he be moved to another department of the same hospital.

There is no specific HIV and AIDS legislation in Malawi as the current laws cut across civil, criminal and constitutional laws.

But lhe Law Commission’s report proposes criminalizing the intentional and negligent (or reckless) transmission of HIV to another person.

“Any person who deliberately infects another person with HIV shall be guilty of any offence and shall be liable to imprisonment for 14 years,” the report said.

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