x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Medical malpractice complaints rise in Dubai

Medical malpractice and negligence complaints have risen 55 per cent for the year so far, compared with the whole of 2009.

DUBAI // There have been more than 100 complaints of malpractice or medical negligence filed against private and public hospitals in the emirate so far this year.

The 108 complaints, from the start of the year until the end of the first week of this month, compare with 69 for the whole of 2009, statistics from the Dubai Health Authority show.

That marks a rise of more than 55 per cent with almost three months of the year to go. Last year's figures were similar.

Dr Layla Al Marzouqi, the head of the clinical governance office at the DHA, says the rise can be partly attributed to the community's greater awareness of the right to complain, and stricter licensing policies that have made it more difficult for medical practitioners to meet requirements.

"We recently adopted a stricter policy for the licensing of healthcare facilities and after we license people we have a very active inspection quality-assurance section," said Dr Al Marzouqi, whose office is part of the DHA's health regulation department.

Patients developing unusual or serious complications after surgery and inadequate treatment that worsened their illness or caused death were among the complaints, said Dr Al Marzouqi.

Other complaints included the incorrect use of injections and improperly prescribed medications.

Broken down, the figures show there have been 84 complaints filed against private hospitals so far this year, and 24 against the public sector. For 2009, those figures were 51 and 18 respectively.

For last year, the figures were 98 complaints against private health care and 29 against the public sector.

Dr Al Marzouqi said more than 60 per cent of medical errors could be attributed to poor communication between healthcare professionals, poor communication between those professionals and patients, and poor documentation.

The authority now runs workshops to tackle these issues.

"We always advise doctors that documentation is the best defence in malpractice cases," Dr Al Marzouqi said. "We tell them to document everything that is communicated to the patient and then have that patient sign it."

This year, the authority issued eight letters of notice and 34 warning letters to medics and facilities. It has also suspended nine medical licences and revoked four.

According to federal law, a licence cannot be suspended for more than one year. After that, the licence must either be reinstituted or revoked.

And 11 doctors have been blacklisted this year, meaning they cannot work anywhere in the UAE or elsewhere in the GCC.

Of the 108 medical cases handled by the authority so far this year, 86 were investigated and 27 of those have been completed. Of the 27, there were 10 confirmed cases of malpractice.

"We look at the doctor's history and if there has been a pattern of malpractice," Dr Al Marzouqi said. "Sometimes their knowledge and experience may not be compatible with their profession.

"Many of these doctors, for example, may not have been performing the most basic things - such as taking a necessary blood test or conducting a simple procedure that could have saved a patient's life."

The DHA has 25 inspectors who make two rounds of inspections daily to the emirate's healthcare service providers.

The increasing number of healthcare facilities in the emirate, as well as patient expectations, also play a significant role in the rising numbers, Dr Al Marzouqi said.

"People's expectations are increasing day by day," she said. "They're expecting better treatment and better services.

"We also have so many people who come from other countries, where this system is already in place."

Another 62 cases were reported to the authority this year and referred to other divisions. Such complaints included those related to finance, insurance and criminal behaviour.

Those cases related to criminal behaviour were referred to the police.

"Not every problem that you develop after an operation is a medical error," she said. "It might be a known complication.

"Having said that, I don't encourage anyone to assume that their complication is a normal one, and to always come to the health authority because we have the medical background to make that decision."

mismail@thenational.ae