Govt hospitals come under the microscope’

The Ministry of Health is monitoring a wide range of mistakes, security lapses and medical errors in government hospitals, Dr. Muhammad Al-Kheshaim, the ministry’s undersecretary for Planning and Development, said Wednesday.

The ministry considers these shortcomings as criteria to assess the performance of the medical institutions, he said while addressing the inaugural session of the “Health Leaders Forum” in Riyadh, and authorities will announce all these deficiencies and methods to eliminate them in more than 240 hospitals and 2,700 health centers.

Those plans and others come at a time when citizens have expressed a wide range of concerns about public hospitals and doubts that the ministry will address them, experts said.

Dr. Meflih Al-Qahtani, Chairman of the National Society for Human Rights, said public hospitals are facing a number of problems including a shortage of beds, long waiting lists, a lack of coordination between various medical sectors, weak medical staff and spread of diseases due to a drastic shortage in specialties.

“We usually receive complaints from patients about medical errors and also from Saudi nurses complaining about the lack of housing facilities for them,” he said. “We always receive demands for an increase in the compensation ceiling set for medical mistakes.”

Dr. Muhammad Al-Khazem, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at King Saud University in Riyadh, said 75 percent of Saudi citizens have no confidence in the procedures the ministry takes regarding medical errors and its efforts to overcome significant deficiencies in the quality of care and treatment.

The ministry, which is also working to end the shortage of beds in public hospitals in the next four years, is constructing more than 66 hospitals with a total capacity of 20,000 beds, Dr. Al-Kheshaim said. This will increase the percentage of beds to one for every 500 citizens, he said.

A number of existing hospitals will be improved through a plan to upgrade facilities with infrastructure problems, he added.

The ministry will also improve its ability to help those who need emergency transportation to hospitals; 600 new ambulances will be imported as part of the ministry’s new budget, Dr. Al-Kheshaim said.

Officials’ awareness of hospital activities will be improved by an integrated computer system linking the hospitals to the Ministry of Health, he added.
It is also working on an executive ordinance defining patients’ rights, which it considers to be a fundamental criterion for evaluating hospitals, he said.

NAWAF AFIT
Saudi Gazette

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