x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

How medical malpractice complaints are dealt with

A top health regulator lays out how the Dubai Health Authority accepts complaints of medical malpractice in the emirate.

Complaints of poor medical services must be made to officials in writing, not by phone, a top health regulator says.

The clinical governance office at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) attends to all properly filed medical complaints, including those related to malpractice or negligence.

But only written forms of the complaints are accepted, said Dr Layla Al Marzouqi, the head of the DHA's clinical governance office.

"Everything must be in writing or customers must come in and sign a documentation of their complaint," Dr Al Marzouqi said.

Complaints can come from customers, the mortality and morbidity committee in DHA hospitals, or from the DHA funding department.

The complaint must be made within six months of the incident.

A person cannot complain on behalf of another individual unless they have the power of attorney.

"Of course everything is taken on a case-by-case basis," Dr Al Marzouqi said.

"For example, if the patient is dead or in a coma, the next of kin should come. If it is a minor, their legal guardian should come in."

Once the office receives the complaint, it is categorised as minor, moderate or major.

Minor cases, in which no one is harmed as a result of a medical error, are referred back to the facility in question, and an explanation must be submitted to the clinical governance office within 10 days.

The patient then reaches an agreement with the healthcare provider and a written letter with the patient's signature is provided to the clinical governance office.

Moderate cases are sent for a peer review, Dr Al Marzouqi said.

"We ask a consultant of the same specialty to review the case," she said. "If the consultant sees that the quality of care was acceptable, we inform the patient and the case is closed."If the consultant sees something questionable, then an investigation committee is formed."

Then it becomes a major case. The committee consists of three members, all physicians of the same speciality, and at least one consultant.

If it decides a case is an act of malpractice, it is referred back to the clinical governance office with an explanation.

The office will then take the necessary disciplinary action, whether that is a fine, a letter of notice, a warning letter, or a suspension or revocation of licence.

If malpractice is not confirmed, the case is closed or a deadline is put in place for the heathcare provider to implement a new policy.

If the patient needs financial compensation, the case must be referred to court.

And if an accidental death of a patient is involved, the case is referred to public prosecution.

The clinical governance office also reviews all deaths in Dubai hospitals and provides the clinical protocol guidelines for all public hospitals in the emirate.

mismail@thenational.ae