Be more proactive in your own healthcare
April 28, 2015
Gynecology Chaperones
April 28, 2015

Compulsive obsession with medical equipment

Good medical care involves use of expensive equipment to aid diagnosis and treatment. Most of such equipment have long shelf lives, and are used on countless patients. Breakdowns are uncommon due to continued maintenance and skilled use. Equipment theft is almost unheard of due to size and security, but can seriously disrupt patient care.

I recall Jethro and his wife, and the unwarranted disruption they caused in our office. He always accompanied her, and seemed quite interested in our modern ultrasound machine. He would ask several questions about its function and portability. “They don’t come any better than this, but not easily portable due to size” I remember saying once. We interpreted his interest as mere curiosity.

Till one Monday morning when we came along only to find the machine was missing. No one had a clue how a machine that big had suddenly disappeared. “Surely can’t have been stolen?” I asked the security manager.

The next few days unravelled a well-crafted theft. The CCTV cameras had captured some curious activity in the office over the preceding weekend. Two individuals had calmly walked into the office, picked the locks and simply wheeled the machine out. Grainy footage showed them talking to security guards as they loaded it onto a van and drove off.

We cancelled our scan sessions and made arrangements for a replacement machine. Jethro and his wife were among the affected individuals, “maybe I could do some of your scans for you?” he said, leaving me a bit confused.

None of us would have anticipated what transpired next. One of our patients came along with a scan print for me to review, “very poor quality” I said after looking at the images. “Got it done cheaply, by a guy called Jethro” she said. That jolted me, I asked for more details.

Our security traced Jethro’s place and sent an impostor for a scan. Jethro indeed did the scan, charged a fee, and was using our machine! He was quickly apprehended and accused of theft and medical deception.

He gave a bizarre explanation, “I suffer from a compulsive obsessive disorder that drives me to steal medical gadgets, and make money out of them.” Indeed, his living room was found congested with all kinds of medical stuff, stolen over the years. But what he had done was criminal and gravely detrimental to patient care.

A Psychiatric review concluded he indeed suffered from an obsessive mental disorder. However, he didn’t get out scot-free. The judge ordered him to refund the money he had made and to do communal hospital service for 6 months. I met him once mopping our office and eyeing a new machine enviously. “Don’t even think about it, you would not escape jail a second time” I said. I was convinced it was just a matter of time before something else disappeared. We barred him from ever stepping into our offices again.

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Good medical care involves use of expensive equipment to aid diagnosis and treatment. Most of such equipment have long shelf lives, and are used on countless patients. Breakdowns are uncommon due to continued maintenance and skilled use. Equipment theft is almost unheard of due to size and security, but can seriously disrupt patient care.

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