Neurosurgeon Dr. Abdulhamid Ali. b. Ali Shukri to the YT: “Treatment of patients in Al-Jomhuryah Hospital of Aden is 100% wrong” [Archives:2001/27/Interview]

July 2 2001

Dr. Abdulhamid Ali b. Ali Shukri is a specialist and consultant in neuro surgery. .He studied medicine in Russia where he got his Masters and Ph.D.. from the Brain and Nerves Institute. He has been working as a volunteer since 2000 in Al-Jomhuryah Hospital as a specialist and consultant in neuro surgery after all his attempts to get a job were futile. Recently he decided to immigrate. Reasons for his decision are revealed in the interview below. The interview was conducted by Mohammed Numan Moqbel. Dr. Shukri is married and his wife also works as a volunteer in the Al-Wahdah Hospital.
Q: When did you come back to Yemen and why?
A: I came here in February 2000. I decided to come back to my homeland to serve my people.
Q: Why have you decided to leave your country now?
A: To get a job elsewhere after I have been asked to stop working in the operation room and the out-patient clinic. I was surprised to be produced by two soldiers before the security director of the Hospital who told me that he was carrying out the Hospital Director’s orders. Before this, I had made a detailed report on the general situation of the Neurology Department. I was totally shocked at the 100% wrong way brain patients are being treated. I am leaving and I will serve the humanity anywhere in the world. This is the mission of a doctor.
Q: Is it possible to make brain operations in Yemen? Can you put your expertise to actual practice here?
A: Introduction of such a specialization is the dire need in Yemen which made me decide to come back here. I hoped before my coming here to find good facilities and expertise to do such operations. And I really did some successful brain operations with the help of another specialist. But circumstances are forcing me to leave this place.
When I first arrived in Yemen, I felt it was very difficult to get a job. I decided to work as a volunteer. Three months later, I met the former Minister of Health, Dr. Abdulwali Nasher who told me that there were no vacancies. He only called for a letter from the Director of the Health Office in Aden to certify their need for such a specialization! I went to the Health Office and got the required letter. But the Minister had by that time changed his mind. He wrote a letter to employ me without a salary. I accepted to work without a salary until I was told to stop working.
Q: Why Do you think they want to get rid of you?
A: Because I wanted to implement new scientific concepts that I learnt. There is only one neurology department at the hospital which serves more than 4 governorates. This Department was established 18 years ago by Professor Mohammed Ahmad Othman who, despite his high qualification is being harassed by vested interests in the Hospital.
Everywhere in the world, departments are headed by specialists. In the Al-Jomhuryah Hospital the head of the Neurology Department is a general practitioner while its founder, Mohammed Ahmad Othman, who is a specialist is being oppressed. He and I are the only Yemeni specialists in the Department. There is another Russian specialist who receives fabulous salary in addition to other facilities.
Strangely, shift doctors stay at home. If a patient arrives in the hospital he will wait for the hospital administration to send a car to the doctor on duty. Eventually, the patient’s condition may worsen. Moreover, the treating physician is either a student in the College of Medicine or a general physician who has nothing to do with neuro surgery. The head of the department gives orders to a general physician to do brain operations. Even if the operation is easy, it must by carried out by a specialist or at least be supervised by a specialist. This is the core of the problem that I have discussed here.
Once a man who was knocked down by a car was brought to the hospital. A general practitioner took him to the operation room and operated on his head. When the specialist arrived he could do nothing and the patient died. At the end of the last year, a 3-year child was brought here. He was suffering from a brain tumor. I decided to operate on him in the evening. He was taken to the Intensive Care Unit and the anesthetist was summoned to do his job. Surprisingly, when the latter arrived in the hospital he refused to administer anesthesia on the child saying that he was dead. I was shocked at such unprofessional attitude which prove that man’s life has no value. The child died next day. I requested the hospital administration to investigate into the case but I was given a deaf ear. Parents of the victim were convinced that it was God’s will. Foreigners who receive not less than US$ 3000 also sleep at home when they are on duty.
As far as the in-patient clinic is concerned, its head attended a training course in Poland for six months which is not enough to learn the language let alone to acquire specialization. He wrongly treats the patients. For example, he advises a patient who is asked to refrain from movement to practice exercises. Another patient who must not drink much is advised to have as much liquid intake as possible. Despite the fact that the contract he signed with the hospital stipulates that he works only in the hospital, he works in many private hospitals.
Q: What are the criteria for contracting foreign doctors?
A: In my opinion, contracting foreign doctors much be based on their academic records and their connection with specialized centers and institutes. We have to establish good relations with these institutions to ensure a continuos cooperation, exchange of information and expertise. We have also to be cautious about the behaviors of these doctors.
Q: What are the most alarming things that have caught your attention during you work as a specialist in neuro surgery in the Al-Jomhuryah Hospital?
A: The spread of tumors in some areas such as Salahaddin area in Aden, Shabwa and Abyan. Iludrocegtaius, malformation, specially in the area of Tor Al-Bahah. If there are intensive researches on these we may achieve good results in controlling them.
Q: What do you think are the causes of the spread of these diseases?
A: Polluted food and environment pollution are among the main causes. The problem needs further scientific investigation.
Q: How do you asses the standard of neuro surgery here?
A: Everywhere in the world even in the poor countries there are developed medical departments provided with the essential equipment to do surgical operations. Here, in the Al-Jomhuryah Hospital we lack these facilities for such operations. Moreover, the qualified cadre are not given a suitable and congenial atmosphere to carry out their duty properly.
I think we have a long way to go to set everything right in this hospital. Just imagine a lot of flies and mosquitoes in an operation room. Doctors enter the operation room wearing their clothes and then they put the green uniform on. Patients are operated on without making hepatitis virus and AIDS tests. This is a wrong practice. When I tell them this is not the way to do things, they say you are the first person to say this is wrong.
The Intensive care and emergency departments are infected with mosquitoes. One of the surprising things is also that you can not distinguish between a doctor and a visitor because doctors do not wear the white uniform. Visiting hours are open round the clock and the number of soldiers is higher than that of the patients. You find a police office inside the hospital, but you fail to find a room for doctors.
Q: What do you suggest to reverse this situation?
A: There should be a re-replacement of the present cadre by qualified personnel and each doctor should be given a specific job. The hospital should be provided with computers that enable doctors to keep in touch with specialized institutions in the world. There should be a library providing references for doctors of the hospital. Doctors should be encouraged to participate in the local, Arab and foreign medical conferences. I also suggest providing the hospital with a modern operation room for neuro surgeries.
In fact, all the Yemeni hospitals are in need of modernization. Difficulties owing to lack of resources may be there. But if the present resources are managed properly it can make a lot of good.
Q: What are the odd things that you have faced here?
A: Some patients of epilepsy do not trust Yemeni doctors. They go to quacks and jugglers. I have also noticed a big number of doctors claiming to be specialized in gynecology and pediatrics or a general practitioner who writes on his clinic that (s)he is a general doctor and a surgeon at the same time. One of the general doctors claiming to be a specialist in neuro surgery diagnosed a patient who suffered from paralysis as having depression The patient is now running after jugglers for recovery.
When I asked the secretary of the Physicians Syndicate why they license general doctors to work as specialists, they replied “they are doctors.” This is a dangerous symptom which reflects incapability and inefficiency of the syndicate to meet its responsibilities.
I have never thought of leaving my country. And I have never thought to be controlled be people who know nothing about medicine either.