Malawi court bars abusive clinician from work: Accused of raping mental patient

The Magistrate Court in Mzuzu has barred clinical officer at Mzuzu Central Hospital from reporting for work until the court clears him of allegations of sexually assaulting a female  mental patient.

Hope Chipwatali 36,  of Chimbia Village Traditional Authority Kaphuka in Dedza District has since been charged with defilement of an imbecile contrary to Section 139 of the Penal Code.

He is accused of sexually assaulting a patient on Tuesday morning in the consultation room after he sedated her on the pretext that he was giving her medicine for her ailment.

Hospital records indicate that the victim is a 35-year-old from Mwanyanja Village, T/A Nthalire in Chitipa [name shilded], who was admitted to the referral hospital for mental illness on January 20 this year following a prolonged altercation with her husband in South Africa.

Ghambi: Lawyer for suspected abusive health worker

According to police, the  duty nurse Jean Vinkhumbo, caught the clinician red-handed raping the patient and reported the matter to authorities.

The court in its order, re-emphasized that the suspect is only allowed to visit Mzuzu Central Hospital in exceptional circumstances like when he is very sick.

Chief Resident Magistrate Chigona  granted bail to Chapwatali following his successful application for the same through Mzuzu based lawyer Christon Ghambi of CHRAM Associates.

Earlier, the prosecutors led by Emmanuel Katunga had vehemently asked the court to deny Chapwatali bail, saying that he would interfere with evidence or witnesses since he worked at the hospital.

On top of that Katunga said the offence of ‘defilement of an Imbecile’ contrary to section 139 of the Penal Code is serious and attracts a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment with hard labour hence there was need to keep the suspect in custody as a safety measure.

But Ghambi successfully argued for bail on behalf of the suspect.

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.

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 the 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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