Bahrain: A Senior MP has accused the Health Ministry of sending the rich abroad for medical treatment while ignoring underprivileged Bahrainis.
Abdulrahman Buali, who is financial and economic affairs committee chairman and parliament’s eldest member, broke out in tears as he spoke of the cancer rates in Bahrain.
“There are 7,250 cancer patients in Bahrain and we are one of the highest in the region with 48 per cent deaths at Salmaniya Medical Complex being from cancer,” said Mr Buali.
“I can’t blame current Health Minister Faeqa Al Saleh for the cancer rates because the previous minister Sadiq Al Shehabi hid it for years rather than reveal it so we can help get funding for cures and treatment.
“Sheesha cafés, mainly those in residential areas, have to be given a notice and closed immediately, we can’t go on seeing death after death after death.
“Rich people who suffer from cancer are sent for proper treatment abroad, while the poor barely manage to get a bed in Salmaniya – I suffered that personally.”
He said His Majesty King Hamad ordered the construction of a new cancer diseases centre in SMC, but nothing has been done since 2011.
“Until then the ministry should open the centre it is now building at the King Hamad University Hospital – I know in both cases there is no budget, but something has to be arranged,” he added.
Mr Buali also demanded a reshuffle of officials at the ministry.
Ms Al Saleh, who was present, spoke about efforts to tackle the number of cancer patients in Bahrain. “We raise awareness about early checks, some cases have been cured but the rest face complications and we have signed an agreement with a private hospital in Bahrain to help us with tests and studies,” she said.
“I know that increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol may see disagreement from many, but sheesha outlets are just one of many that have to see more restrictions because they sell death.
“Bahrain is the second highest in the GCC in cancer rates after Qatar, but we are lower than European countries and we have a special commission that addresses treatment abroad, but nowadays we are addressing matters through the visiting doctors’ scheme.”
Ms Al Saleh also responded to a question by MP Mohammed Millad on fees taken from private sector employees who seek treatment at government facilities.
“The Pension Fund Authority takes payments made by employers for Bahrainis and the Labour Market Regulatory Authority takes payments made by employers for expatriates and they go to government coffers and not the ministry,” she added.
Meanwhile, Youth and Sports Minister Hisham Al Jowder outlined a new five-year strategy to develop youth and sports programmes in Bahrain.