That two-thirds of the emirate's existing medical facilities failed inspections by Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) last year is cause for concern. That hygiene is the number one reason for these failed tests should have alarm bells ringing. At least the concerned parties can now start cleaning up their act.
While the study, reported in The National today, blames smaller clinics for most of the violations, these failures may be symptomatic of bigger problems. Large sums of money have been invested in new hospitals and the latest equipment, but less of an emphasis has been placed on human resources and development. No matter how advanced a hospital, human beings are still the first line of defence against disease.
Many healthcare workers come to the UAE without extensive medical backgrounds and from countries where the healthcare system is less advanced. In order to address this, more emphasis must be placed on training, acording to Dr Khalid Fulad, the director of health system compliance at HAAD. "Healthcare workers from Asia are trained differently to those from Europe and the US: they employ different practices in hygiene or infection control, and we need our high standards to be met by all," said Dr Fulad.
Simple procedures such as wearing surgical gloves and better sterilisation of equipment are issues that can be addressed at a minimum cost. But the problems don't stop at hygiene. Poor maintenance of medical equipment and facilities, inadequate record-keeping, a lack of unified guidelines and infrequent fire and safety inspections all contribute to a bleak picture.
Considering the country's transient nature, the risks of diseases imported into the UAE may be greater than in other parts of the world. This makes better record-keeping and higher standards for hygiene all the more important.
HAAD has done an admirable job of raising the standards of medical care in the capital. It is now up to those who manage medical facilities, whether big hospitals or smaller clinics, to get their act together and meet those standards.