Al-Saba’een Hospital lacks essential medical services [Archives:2007/1032/Health]

March 12 2007

Saddam Al-Ashmori
For Yemen Times

Upon entering Al-Saba'een Public Hospital in Sana'a, one might think that it's the only hospital in Yemen or that all Yemenis are sick. The hospital constantly is congested with patients coming from various Yemeni governorates and rural areas, especially given that it's specialized for women and children.

Additionally, it receives many cases transferred from other hospitals, thus creating much crowding. However, the hospital also is experiencing miserable conditions due to lack of medical care, shortage of equipment, negligence and scarcity of medicine.

Nearly everyone in the hospital complains about their sufferings: patients bemoan the lack of medical services and hospital employees are discontent with their low salaries and allowances, while hospital administrators express the problems and obstacles they face.

Qassim Mohammed from Ibb governorate comments, “I'm poor, but I was obliged to bring my sick son to this hospital. I was surprised to find that it's very crowded. My son is lying in the emergency unit with three others in one bed.

“Moreover, there's neither medicine nor medical care,” he notes.

“Frankly, the medical services at this hospital are deteriorated, but we can't go to a private hospital because it's very costly,” says Yahya Ahmed Badiq, whose son is being treated at the hospital. “The hospital is a source of sickness due to mistreatment. So far, I have no idea about my son's disease. Doctors simply prescribe medicine and my son takes it, but there's no sign of recovery,” he adds.

Hospital manager Dr. Amat Alkarim Al-Hori confirms that the reason for the overcrowding is a shortage of beds and other essential equipment. “The pediatric emergency unit's capacity is limited because we have only 11 beds, but we receive 30 to 40 children every day. We urge our doctors to hasten treatment, but since the children sometimes require oxygen, we keep them in the emergency unit. In this case, we put three or four children in one bed,” she discloses.

Al-Hori also maintains that some citizens are uncooperative because when they arrive at the hospital, they want doctors to begin treating their children immediately. “The doctors decide who needs immediate treatment, so some children are delayed for some time, but that doesn't mean hospital personnel are negligent. However, we do have a complaints box, as well as a punitive council to punish those staff who are remiss in their duties,” she notes.

Citizen Abdulkarim Wahass believes that only some people receive good medical services. “Everything here goes well if you have mediation; otherwise, you won't be served. When you arrive, you think the hospital is good, but unfortunately, there's nothing good here,” he laments, adding, “The hospital doesn't provide even the simplest medicine. Also, we feel like we're in a desert because there's not even a telephone if we need to contact someone.”

Al-Hori reveals that Al-Saba'een Hospital no longer receives medicine from the Yemeni government. “The hospital had received some medicine from the Ministry of Health's Medicine Supply Fund, but the fund now gives us nothing. We can't buy medicine from drug companies because we don't have support,” she points out, adding, “We sometimes resort to hospitals like Al-Thawra, Al-Quds and military hospitals to provide us with medicine because those hospitals have budgets, but not as many patients or employees as us.”

She further disclosed that the hospital experiences a shortage of incubators because many newborns require incubation and intensive care. “We often have anywhere from 10 to 15 babies, but we only have seven incubators. In this case, we're obliged to put two babies in one incubator,” she explains, emphasizing that the Yemeni government should pay attention to the hospital's needs.

“We call upon the incumbent bodies in the government to provide the hospital with medical supplies and incubators, as well as build an annex in order to increase the hospital's capacity; otherwise, the door will be shut in citizens' faces,” she warns.

The hospital's obstetrics and gynecology department also has many problems, including too few beds to serve all patients, particularly those coming to the hospital at great risk and requiring intensive care. Additionally, there's no intensive care unit to care for women after childbirth.

“In the obstetrics unit alone, between 50 and 70 patients arrive at the hospital every day. At least 10 of them arrive late from rural areas with many risks, such as a ruptured uterus or bleeding due to pregnancy and delivery complications,” Al-Hori notes, “Unfortunately, we only have 20 beds, which aren't enough for all patients; consequently, we must put two patients in the same bed.”

According to Al-Hori, Al-Saba'een Hospital also suffers shortages in both its blood bank and its laboratories, where some equipment is old while others require maintenance. However, the hospital administration can't tackle any of these problems because its financial support is so little. “We can satisfy neither patients nor even our staff. If we had an adequate budget, we could offer better services,” she affirms.

Hospital staffers maintain that their financial situation is very poor due to low salaries and rotation allowances, which may adversely affect their performance. Dr. Ali Hassan, vice head of Al-Saba'een's pediatric department, notes, “Overcrowding, lack of support, low salaries and neglecting staff rights frustrate hospital personnel. The Yemeni government and the Ministry of Health are responsible for our problems because they don't respond to the hospital's needs.”

Pediatrician Ameen Mihyaddin Al-Muammari remarks that in the past, employees would receive their rotation allowance from the Ministry of Public Health, but this now comes from the hospital's own income, which is insufficient.

In this regard, Al-Hori reveals that specialists receive YR 3,000 for 24-hour rotations while general physicians receive YR 2,300. However, she stresses that employees should be given the same rotation allowances as their counterparts at other hospitals so they'll perform their duties properly.

She further demands that there should be a strategy to improve Al-Saba'een Hospital along with other improvement strategies for hospitals in Sana'a and other governorates so that it can better serve citizens.