SHARJAH // A third private hospital has been closed in Sharjah as the Ministry of Health continues its crackdown on medical facilities that do not meet strict standards of care.
Dar El Oyoun Eye Hospital, at Crystal Plaza on Buhairah Corniche, was shut after inspectors found a shortage of doctors, nurses and equipment.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Saqr Al Qassimi, assistant undersecretary at the ministry and director of Sharjah Health Zone, said the hospital had been closed temporarily to give its owners time to rectify the issues.
"There was a shortage of medical staff, including doctors and nurses, as well as equipment," he said.
"The closure is temporary and once these concerns are addressed the hospital will resume its operations."
Earlier this year, the 160-bed Royal Hospital was shut after inspectors found unlicensed and unqualified staff working there. In January, Sharjah's 60-bed Central Private Hospital was also closed because of a shortage of doctors, nurses and equipment. Both were allowed to reopen once the breaches highlighted by the ministry were addressed.
The Dar El Oyoun Eye Hospital, which handles mostly outpatients, was closed two weeks ago.
Sheikh Al Qassimi said bosses at Dar El Oyoun, which has branches in Egypt, Sudan and Libya, had been warned after it failed a previous inspection. When officials did not respond to requests to address the problems, the ministry took action.
Officials at the hospital could not be reached for comment.
Signs posted on the hospital's doors from the Department of Economic Planning, acting on behalf of the Ministry of Health, notified patients of the closure.
A member of staff at the neighbouring Community Health Centre said a number of patients from Dar El Oyoun had visited the centre to ask what was going on.
"We always refer our clients with eye problems to them, but for the past two weeks we have not been able to do so," she said.
Residents of Sharjah said the ministry's decisions to close private medical facilities were welcome steps towards ensuring good medical services for the public.
But it meant they now had to call ahead to make sure a hospital was open before going to see a doctor.
"Every time I am going to my private hospital now I first try their landline. When it is answered I ask them if they are open before I go there," said Godfrey Wampalu, who lives in Sharjah City. "We all support the Ministry of Health to crack down on offending hospitals because they are dealing with people's lives - there is no second chance once a life-taking mistake is made on a patient."
Sheikh Al Qassimi said the closures, while inconvenient, were a minor disturbance that should not affect the level of care available.
The three closures have put staffing problems at private hospitals in the emirate in the spotlight. Many government-run facilities in the Northern Emirates suffer similar problems, often linked to low pay.
Many doctors, nurses, technicians and administrative staff have left to join private hospitals, often in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, that offer more attractive salary packages.
The issue prompted an FNC committee to visit all government hospitals in Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah in 2010. It found a chronic shortage of staff and equipment.
"The situation is bad, the medical services are substandard, there are massive resignations among staff as job privileges are not satisfactory," Dr Sultan Al Muezzin, head of the committee on health, labour and social affairs, said at the time.