x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Cooperation can curb medical abuse

When a conman masquerades as a plastic surgeon, patients' lives are on the line. Authorities have a duty to tighten licensing processes to prevent this kind of fraud.

Steven Moos was supposed to be the exception. Indicted for medical fraud in the US in 2004, and wanted by the FBI for the next six years, Moos was somehow able to set up shop in the UAE, impersonate a Hollywood surgeon and operate with reckless abandon.

He was found out in 2010, but not before the case became an embarrassment for the health-care industry.

Two years later, patients in the UAE are undoubtedly safer from such criminals, but as The National reports today, there nonetheless remain loopholes of licensing through which untrained, unscrupulous medical practitioners are still able to slip in.

It may not be possible to replicate Moos' deception, but as a recent case in Al Ain illustrates, patients are still being put in harm's way. At the Cosmo Health Medical Polyclinics, for instance, authorities from Health Authority - Abu Dhabi found unlicensed doctors and dentists routinely working on unsuspecting patients.

Haad took quick and decisive action once the problem was identified by shutting down the clinic so no other patients could be put at risk. But one wonders how much harm these "doctors" did while they were practising. It is also worth asking how many other potentially dangerous clinics are in operation today.

Government authorities are working to reduce that number to zero. Haad and the Ministry of Labour have begun to examine ways to consolidate licensing processes among government agencies so unqualified medical practitioners are not able to slip through the cracks.

And as we noted in these pages last month, efforts are also underway to coordinate licensing procedures between Haad and the Dubai Health Authority so that a doctor fired in one emirate cannot simply move to another.

Plugging the paperwork hole will take time, as will a thorough inspection of all the country's health clinic and centres. But as the Al Ain case makes clear, the efforts are urgently needed to protect patients from people who prey on the uninformed.

If health-care practitioners are not willing to live up to the Hippocratic Oath - first of all, "do no harm", amid other ethical standards - then they have no place in the profession.