x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Medical complaints overhaul

Only malpractice complaints involving severe and life-threatening grievances will be investigated by the Dubai Health Authority from now on.

DUBAI // A new procedure for medical complaints in the emirate will prioritise severe and life-threatening cases to allow a quicker resolution of the most serious grievances, health officials said yesterday.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) previously had to fully investigate all cases, including those with expected or already resolved complications.

Now only cases that raise serious questions will be investigated, said Dr Layla Al Marzouqi, the head of the clinical governance office at the DHA's health regulation department. "After reviewing our cases over the past two years, we found that a lot of time was going into cases where the conclusion was straightforward," she said.

"During this time, some of the other cases with more serious complaints would get delayed."

So far this year, 215 complaints have been reported to the DHA. Of those, only 13 were confirmed as involving malpractice or negligence, 56 were ruled to be neither, and the remainder are still under investigation.

The new medical liability law has added negligence into the definition of malpractice, in addition to "unfamiliarity of the practitioner with technical aspects", and "insufficient efforts".

Cases in which complications resulted from patient action, or in which they were a known side effect of a procedure, are exempt, Dr Al Marzouqi said. "For example, if someone is complaining of an infection … we'll pull up that patient's file," she said.

"If infection is a known side effect of the procedure and the file shows that the doctor is attending to the patient's condition appropriately, we'll close the case.

"Our previous policy required us to interview everyone involved, the doctors, nurses, regardless."

Cases are divided into three categories: minor, moderate and major. Minor and moderate cases are assessed, and, based on the findings - for example, inadequate treatment of an infection - the case can be promoted to the major category, requiring the formation of an investigation committee.