Unidentified person sets fire to a radiotherapy machine at Al-Jumhuri HospitalPity! [Archives:2003/641/Front Page]

June 12 2003

Sanaa, 10 June 2003 – One of several machines that were supposed to be part of a radiation therapy center at Al-Jumhuri Hospital in Sanaa was set on fire Tuesday morning amid shock and dismay by Hospital staff and management. “We still don't know who did it, but we are searching for clues to find him. This is an outrageous act that may be a conspiracy to ruin the image and reputation of Al-Jumhuri Hospital and its management.” said Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamidi General Manager of Al-Jumhuri Hospital.
According to the hospital sources, the machine started burning at around 9:00 am when the hospital's GM came along with others to realize that a wooden box containing an old but valuable machine – in hundreds of thousands of US dollars – belonging to the hospital was burning.
In a special interview with the Yemen Times, Dr. Al-Hamidi said, “I was among the first to see that box burning. I rushed to the scene and gave clear orders to the security people and others in the hospital to quickly work on extinguishing the fire and calling the firefighters as quickly as possible. An investigation into this has already been started.”
“We kept on trying to put the fire out with all possible means but the fire was still raging and only when the firefighters came was the fire extinguished. It seems that it was done intentionally by a dishonest person who wants to cause us harm.” he added.
When asked about the containers and why they were left there in the background for months he said, “Those containers were brought to us in February 2002 from the Ministry of Public Health. The Minister ordered to send those machines and put them in the backyard as the place where they were supposed to be installed was not yet built. So we had to do so and go by the orders. This happened despite the fact that we had no idea of the brands, value, and specifications of those machines.” Dr. Al-Hamidi said.
According to the hospital's management, the machines were composed of a linear accelerator and other nuclear radio-therapy devices to cure cancer diseases. The machines were brought from Japan in 1996 during the time Dr. Najeeb Ghanem was Minister of Public Health. Since late 1996 until 2002 the machines stayed in the containers and were never installed.
Yemen Times contacted Dr. Najeeb Ghanem and inquired about the containers. “Those machines were given to us by the Japanese government as part of a debt relief agreement so as to provide Yemen with needed machinery to cure cancer diseases that could not be cured with conventional medicine or surgery.” he said.
“In early 1997, everything went well as we prepared all the necessary elements to start building the radiotherapy center in Al-Jumhuri Hospital. We were supposed to build the center in five months. We trained the necessary cadres. We contracted the Japanese company in order to install the machines and train staffers. We reached an agreement with the Geneva-based International Atomic Energy Agency that they would provide all the necessary assistance to us. However, the 1997 elections resulted in ending my term as Minister, and ever since then, things never moved.” he said.
It is worth noting that the project of building the radiotherapy center at Al-Jumhuri Hospital is still ongoing. Construction has been complete for most of the center, yet the hospital's management is awaiting funds to bring up-to-date equipment and machinery to be installed in the center. “Those machines that have stayed in the backyard of the hospital are quite old (7 years old) and may be useless. Hence, we will have to bring new machines any way.”
The incident raised the question of why such valuable machines have not been installed or dealt with by the successive ministers of health who followed Dr. Najeeb Ghanem. Is it corruption? Is it mismanagement? Is it simply carelessness? Those questions will be asked frequently in the near future, but all will definitely need answers, and many decision-makers should be held accountable.