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Legal charter vital for health sector

Bahrain News
Thu, 14 Apr 2016
By Raji Unnikrishnan


Bahrain: Hundreds  of complaints have been made against private health centres and hospitals since the start of last year, it has been claimed.

They were registered with the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (BCCI) health and medical services committee, which is now demanding a new law governing the health sector.

A proposal for a new health charter, which would be rooted in national legislation, has already been presented to Health Minister Faeqa Al Saleh.

BCCI health and medical services committee chairman Adel Al A’ali said there was a need for clear guidelines setting out the responsibilities of doctors, hospitals and patients – especially in cases where visiting surgeons use a hospital’s facilities.

“Our objective is to have a legal charter, or a Medical Law, which defines the rights and responsibilities of doctors, hospitals and patients,” Mr Al A’ali told the GDN.   

“At present we don’t have any definition in the law guiding the practice of doctors accredited by the Health Ministry, who perform surgeries in private facilities.”

Mr Al A’ali said there was confusion about who should be held responsible if there were complications in procedures conducted at a private facility by a visiting specialist, or a private surgeon who simply uses a private hospital’s facilities to conduct surgeries.

“Based on an agreement between a doctor and a hospital, the former performs operations if they are satisfied with facilities in the hospital,” he said.

“But when things go wrong and patients have an issue, they sue the hospital and the entire blame is on the facility.

“The only option that remains for the hospital is to sue the doctor to recover compensation they end up paying to patients, which is usually thousands of dinars.

“In all such cases, the issue is usually patients claiming medical negligence, which end up in courts and the case is 100 per cent against the  hospital.

“Most of the time, court cases take years and, by the time the hospital reaches a position to sue the doctor, they may not necessarily be available in Bahrain.

“We have received hundreds of such cases during the past year.”

The National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) received 34 complaints between January and March.

Chief executive Dr Maryam Al Jalahma said in an interview with an Arabic newspaper that 13 of those had been referred to the Public Prosecution for further action. 

However, she added only five per cent of those cases – in both private and public sector facilities – involved alleged medical negligence. 

Mr Al A’ali argued it was wrong for hospitals to face action for any mistakes made by a doctor who was not on its books.

Fairness

“When anything unfortunately goes wrong, by law it is only the hospital that bears the brunt – which is unfair and intimidates investors,” he said. 

He also called for closer scrutiny of foreign doctors who fly in as visiting specialists to treat patients – and argued there was a case for denying such visits if there are already qualified specialists in Bahrain.

“Many hospitals fly in doctors, who they say are experts and offer their services for a limited period in the country,” he said. 

“But we have no mechanism to ensure they are adding value to our medical sector. 

“We need to make sure that such expertise is not available in Bahrain before they are allowed and publicised.”

raji@gdn.com.bh

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