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DOHA: A senior Qatari official of the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) was grilled by citizens at a popular programme on Qatar Radio yesterday, who raised doubts about the neutrality of the HMC committee investigating medical errors and narrated more stories of alleged medical mistakes committed by HMC doctors.
Dr Yousuf Al Maslamani, head of the Medical Complications Committee at the HMC that is responsible for investigating complaints about medical errors was hosted by Watanee Al Habeeb- Sabah Al Khair (Good Morning My Beloved Country) programme of Qatar Radio, after it a received a volley of complaints from citizens and residents over the past few days related to medical mistakes at the HMC hospitals.
“The committee you have is not neutral and all its members are from the same hospital. So you don’t come out with the right results. That is why I propose to set up a neutral committee headed by foreigners and expert professors. Those who make mistakes should be punished. It is not enough to issue a warning to someone who has caused a death,” said a caller, who introduced himself as Abu Mohammed.
Al Maslamani rejected the criticism saying, “I am heading this committee and I can say it is functioning with full neutrality and without any bias”. “There is no clear-cut definition for medical errors. Only a specialised committee can take decision on such complaints. We also have to differentiate between medical mistakes and side effects of the medicines,” the official said, in his introductory remarks.
Surgical procedures also have medical complications which can lead to death. “However, any unnatural development in patient’s situation is subject to investigation even if there are no complaints. Once we receive a complaint, we set up an investigating committee,” he added.
The committee can take support from technicians, engineers and specialists and if the issue is related to medicines it would seek support from pharmacy specialists.
“Investigation results are always transferred to the Medical Complication Committee which I am heading and this committee will decide whether the issue in question is a medical mistake, medical complication or a normal error,” said Al Maslamani.
“We have found that 90 percent of the cases are medical complications. The medical errors are only 10 percent,” he added.
He said, in many cases, it is difficult to identify who is responsible for the mistake. For example, a doctor who wrote the right prescription may make a mistake in the dose of the medicine. But this should be corrected by the pharmacist and then there is the nurse.
“In such cases, who you would hold responsible,” asked Al Maslamani, adding that errors in prescriptions form only one per cent of the total medical errors.
His comments were followed by a question- answer session, in which many callers sought clarification over what they had experienced from some HMC doctors.
A woman, who identified herself as Umm Raneen said she had a repeated miscarriage and the doctors at HMC conducted many tests but they could not identify the reason.
“All the doctors told me that they were not finding any problem. Where will I go now and where can I get treatment,” she asked.
Al Maslamani said the doctors can not be blamed in this case and if the caller is a Qatari, she can have further examination abroad under government support.
Another caller - Abu Abdullah - levelled a serious allegation saying his father died of liver and kidney failure, after the doctor failed to treat a normal urine blockage before it got complicated
“I told the doctor several times about the urine blockage but they left him for three days since a simple operation could have solved the problem. After three days, his liver and kidneys were damaged he died because of that,” said Abdullah.
Reacting to this, Al Maslamani said this was a serious complaint and if what the caller narrated was true, it should be investigated.
Another caller - Abdul Aziz - said he had lodged a complaint with Maslamani following the death of his father who was treated at Hamad General Hospital but no action was taken.
“I met Dr Maslamani and he told me they will investigate the issue.
“He took my telephone number and promised to call me back. I didn’t receive any call and I went again to meet Maslamani but his secretary told me that he was in a meeting. After that I didn’t hear anything about it from the HMC,” said Abdul Aziz.
At one point the presenter intervened and told the official that “ we don’t hear any reports about doctors in Qatar punished for medical errors or the patients compensated.”
“ We are ready to do what the people want. But let us know what they want. Should we work according to the system in the US or in Qatar… In the US, if there is a medical error, the hospital will be responsible, not the doctor. You have to differentiate between compensation, punishment and corrective measures,” said Maslamani, responding to his comments.
He clarified that as a policy matter, HMC will not announce the names of the doctors who are found to be responsible for medical errors.
At the end of the programme the presenter announced that another session on the same issue will take place in January next year and the programme will be aired directly from the Hamad General Hospital.