x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Medics blacklisted for inefficient care

Eight clinics and 15 doctors had their licences revoked, with another five doctors, five nurses, 10 medical directors and 11 health facilities receiving warnings.

Almost 80 per cent of medical professionals who had their licences suspended or were blacklisted last year were charged with inappropriate or inefficient patient care, health bosses have revealed.

Eight clinics and 15 doctors had their licences revoked. A further five doctors, five nurses, 10 medical directors and 11 health facilities received warnings.

Violations that result in licences being revoked - sometimes only temporarily - included working as a medical professional without a Haad licence, withholding details about malpractice suits in other countries, facilities that do not have the required number of nurses and unhygienic work places.

"Infection control is very serious," said Dr Mohammed Al Seiari, head of the Health Authority Abu Dhabi's (Haad) health system compliance division. "Mixing food and medication also has a significant impact."

Other offences included running adverts that have not been approved by the Ministry of Health, and health professionals who committed insurance fraud. The latter always resulted in the person being blacklisted, said a Haad spokesman.

Last year, a doctor was blacklisted after the authority discovered he had been investigated for malpractice in his previous job in the UK. In these situations, the answer is always the same, said Dr Al Seiari.

"As a prevention measure we don't accept people who have issues in their country of licence because, from past experience, they bring their problems with them," he said.

One doctor had been prescribing drugs that were not licensed but not banned in the UAE. She had her licence revoked for one year.

Last month, a cosmetic surgery clinic in Al Ain was closed down because several employees did not have proper licences. One woman presented herself as a doctor and carried out laser hair removal treatments but was only licensed to work as a beautician.

Another facility is due to be closed within 48 hours for similarly unsafe practices, said Dr Al Seiari.

"The audit team do ad hoc visits. They go to facilities as patients, which involves presenting their insurance cards," he said. "Once there, they watch actual patients and observe how the doctors work."

The facility due for closure had at least one doctor using the same pair of surgical gloves when looking at different patients.

"The doctor refused to change his gloves. He told the patient to 'take it or leave it', so the facility is under the process of being closed," said Dr Al Seiari. Other offences have included hospital labs operating without technicians and doctors working beyond the scope of their qualifications - the latter accounting for roughly 10 per cent of the total number of offenders.

Not all breaches result in someone being blacklisted, with actions and penalties determined by a Haad-appointed committee, who review cases on a quarterly basis.

Violations that result in a warning letter, normally offering a grace period in which to improve service, include those that do not physically harm patients but which could result in problems later.

Patient files not being properly secured, potentially resulting in a breach of confidentiality, is a less-severe offence, said Dr Al Seiari.

The grace period differs with each case, he added.

It is hoped that by the end of the year, the public will be able to see which facilities are not operating at the necessary standards due to the launch of a ranking system.

Still awaiting approval, the system will follow Haad's pharmaceutical ranking system, Jawda (quality in Arabic), launched last month.

Audits at pharmacies uncovered almost 15,000 violations, ranging from not having a licensed pharmacist to having out-of-date medication, in about 650 pharmacies. A quarter received the lowest grade available. The hospital system will follow the same guidelines.

"If the score is low, they will be given a red label," said Dr Al Seiari. "[For] a good standard, the colour will range from yellow to green."

zalhassani@thenational.ae