Muscat: Almost 100 clinics across Oman, along with dozens of medical staff members, faced action from authorities in 2015, patient safety regulators have announced.
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Infection control and patient safety remain a key challenge for the Ministry of Health’s Directorate General of Private Health Establishment, says a top official, who detailed his department's dossier of shame,detailing problems at a number of clinics and among medical staff operating in the Sultanate last year.
In 2015, 10 clinics were shut down permanently and 88 others were suspended temporarily throughout the country, when they failed to comply with safety standards set by the Ministry of Health in Oman, said Dr Mazin Jawad al Khabouri, Director General of Private Health Establishment.
Besides taking action against the clinics, the licenses of 10 medical staff members were revoked, and another 26 were reassessed, while 53 were given fines and 29 medical staff received warnings.
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“When we revoke licenses of medical staff, we notify the GCC about them and they become blacklisted,” he added.
According to Dr. Mazin, most clinics were shut down due to irregular practices, which hindered procedures preventing infection control and patient safety. “All our actions are due to patient safety concerns--we normally go and inspect private health care centres, and if we find there are grave issues, we suspend them temporarily and wait for them to improve. However, if the issues are enormous we shut them.”
Additionally, there have been a number of incidents in the past which have resulted in the creation of stricter regulations.
“There was a doctor giving patients expired injections, which is completely unethical, so we revoked his licence. Another doctor was injecting patients in their knee joints, due to which we had an outbreak of infections, and these people had to be operated on to clean their joints because they were infected and the doctor was not practicing safe techniques,” said Dr Mazin.
“The latter was asked, by the Ministry of Health, to stop practicing medicine until the infection control problems in his clinics had ended, and then he was asked to stop injecting into patients’ joints, and this was a few months ago. However, since he wanted to continue his practice, we made him work with a consultant in the Ministry, and he was asked to practice under his supervision until the consultant was satisfied that the doctor understood the implications of joint injections.”
“There were also cases where a sterilising machine was not certified, so it was not possible to know if equipment was sterilised properly or not. Then there was another case with a doctor who opened a clinic and was bringing in doctors on visitors visas to practice in the country, which is completely illegal,” recalled Dr. Mazin.
The Ministry has a committee to investigate violations, which holds regular meetings, and clinics are also inspected on a regular basis. Sometimes there are also surprise inspections conducted by the Ministry. “If a clinic or doctor is found to be violating laws, we either close the clinic or stop the doctor temporarily. For example, if we find infection control problems in a clinic, we close it temporarily until they have overcome or rectified the shortcomings, and sometimes we ask that the doctor be reassessed,” noted Dr Mazin.
The inspections are quite straightforward, noted Dr Mazin. “When somebody wants to open a private clinic, they apply for a license or apply for a permission, they fill out a form and we check if their background is okay, we sign it and then they start registering with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Next, they find a suitable location and tell us about it, and then we go and take a look. If it is suitable, then they can begin with their setup and, at the same time, we give them related letters for the police to issue a visa, so they can have exams conducted for their staff. Once that is sorted out and the person says their clinic is ready to open, we then go take a look, and if it is complete and everything looks fine, we give them a licence.”
Dr Mazin says that sometimes irregular practices are not performed deliberately, but then the background of a doctor determines what is done. “Doctors should normally self-regulate themselves, but if we see that they are not doing that, we intervene and sort the matter out and regulate their practice. Sometimes, irregular practices are not consciously done,” said Dr Mazin.
The ministry is also becoming more careful when it comes to licensing doctors. “We are becoming stricter about privileges, so doctors can’t practice out of their specializations. If they want to do something more, they need to get permission from us,” added Dr Mazin.
If members of the public have concerns about a hospital or clinic, they can be in touch with the contact centre of the Ministry of Health’s Directorate General of Private Establishment at 24441999.