Muscat: Twelve private health clinics were shut down and more than 100 warned and fined for breaching regulations, the Ministry of Health has revealed.
Private Health Establishments across Oman faced action in 2016, along with some of the medical staff, patient safety regulators said.
Apart from the 12 closures another 21 were ordered to close until they improved services. A further 74 were fined and another 14 given warnings. Licenses of 2 medical staff were also revoked.
Infection Control and Patient safety remain the key challenges for the Ministry of health’s Directorate General of Private Health Establishments, says a top official who listed a host of problems his inspection teams witnessed on their visits.
“The most common issues are around Control of Infection; reusing equipment and consumables which are designed for single use, as well as improper sterilization of multiple use items, ignoring the basic rules of infection control. Sometimes incorrect procedures and cleaning materials are used. Either ignorance or the desire to save money are usually the causes.”
According to Dr Mazin Al Khabouri, Director General of Private Health Establishments, the MoH is determined not to wait for something bad to happen, but tries to be proactive in protecting patients from poor standards.” We don’t wait for a disaster to occur, so, if we see that there is a problem, like the same needle being used for different patients, this is unacceptable, and we take immediate action.”
The directorate carries out routine inspections at clinics, hospitals and medical centers which are licensed by them at least once a year, and sometimes more often, if issues are found. “However if the violations are more serious, to the extent that they affect patient safety, including infection control, we ask them to temporarily cease their service till they rectify their mistakes.
“We give them time, agreed between us, and then we re-visit them and if they still do not comply, only then do we bring them to the violations committee, and if the violation is of a very serious nature, then we tell them to close for a definite period from three months to a year and suspend the doctors. This is the maximum we can apply, and should be sufficient for the establishment to rectify any issues.
“If we find that the Doctor is no longer competent or if the violations are of a nature which show incompetency from the staff, then we take the rare measure of revoking their licenses. However we are finding that as our audits are becoming more frequent and detailed, health centers are now complying more and the number of clinics facing action have become fewer.”
Dr Mazin recalls an example of gross violations in a Muscat clinic last year, “ We closed a clinic for six months; they were doing strange things- not cleaning equipment properly, practicing beyond their scope of service, which could have led to disasters. The clinic was not of an acceptable standard. Their sink was not properly connected; they had a bucket under the sink for drainage, and when we turned the tap on the water was yellow, which showed the staff was not even washing their hands. This was in a clinic which had been in existence for 25 years. Standards had obviously fallen over time.”
“This was a shock to us because it was a well-known clinic. It was a shock to the clinic sponsors and there was a lot of pressure on us. However we carried out a follow-up inspection recently and everything is now fine.”
“The inspections are quite straightforward,” noted Dr Mazin, “We are not trying to trick providers or find faults where there are none. When someone wants to open a private clinic they apply for a license. All our Standards are published on our website. They complete an application form and an undertaking to meet our standards. We carry our background checks, we give permission, and then the provider can start the other processes to open their business.”
“When the provider finds a suitable location we visit and take a look. If it is suitable they can begin their set-up and at the same time we provide letters to ROP to allow the visa process to start for staff. This allows staff to come to Oman for the examination and other processes to check they are properly qualified to work in healthcare in Oman. Once this is completed and the person says their clinic is ready to open, we revisit, and as long as they comply with all the major requirements, we issue a license.”
“This is one of our main functions, and now that we have robust standards, all Governorates will be able to apply the same standards, to avoid criticisms of varying standards throughout the Sultanate.”
Returning to the issue of violations Dr Mazin said, “Although these violations are happening in private clinics throughout Oman, because the density of clinics is higher in Muscat, violations seem higher in Muscat, but if you look at the incidence by density, violations are equal”
“Many times it is just lack of education; medical staff do things unknowingly, just because it was OK to do these things in their own country, or when they were first trained. So at times, it is about, re-educating them to what is acceptable in Oman.”
All medical and paramedical staff including Ayurveda and Chinese Health Centers, have to undergo the Ministry of health Medical exam and meet our Standards, before they can legally operate in Oman.
Dr Mazin added, “Patients can also help in improving standards of care in Clinics and Hospitals by watching to see doctors and nurses practice proper hand hygiene, for instance, and looking at the cleanliness of clinics and professionalism of staff. If they encounter issues which concern them in Private Health Establishments they can get in touch with the Ministry of Health contact center on 2444 1999.