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Sun 1 Apr 2007 11:54 AM

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Clinics face closure

Licensing violations rife in Abu Dhabi, as a clamp down on private healthcare facilities sees eleven clinics close.

Abu Dhabi's Health Authority has shut down two healthcare clinics following "major violations" of health and safety rules. The authority, which declined to reveal the identity of the facilities, said they were permanently closed down with immediate effect.

In a startling statement released to
Medical Times

, the authority described how an inspection team visiting the clinics found no doctors available to treat patients; "who were being treated by receptionists and accountants."

Treatment rooms were described as, "very small in size" and "extremely dirty". Pills were stored and labelled incorrectly, and vaccines were kept in standard fridges without temperature control.

The Health Authority's statement said: "Besides the obvious problems with the sterility of the facility and the extremely bad hygiene standards, exposed electrical wires, which were of great danger, could be seen everywhere.

"Such clinics with disastrous conditions affecting the health and wellbeing of community members cannot be allowed to continue functioning with such violations.

A further nine clinics have been closed for six months and fined for violation of labour laws, the Authority added, after 14 unlicensed doctors and nurses were found working without appropriate labour cards. The medical staff had been registered with the Ministry of Labour as non-professionals and, as a result, had evaded standard credential checks by the Health Authority.

The closures are the first to follow last year's announcement of a clamp down on licensing violations in Abu Dhabi's private healthcare sector. In a bid to halt reported "widespread" illegal visa trading and the employment of unlicensed medical staff, Dr Ibrahim Ali Al Qadi, director of the private medical practice department at the Health Authority, announced clinics would face spot checks by inspection teams. Commenting at the time, Dr Qadi said: "We have discovered clinics with doctors and nurses working under non-professional visas. The clinic has applied for a visa for a secretary or porter, and then allowed this person to work as a member of the medical team, without proper evaluation."

The news prompted patient safety fears, Dr Qadi said, as unregistered medical staff could abscond if faced with an investigation. "No-one is controlling this," he said. "If something goes wrong, an unlicensed doctor could simply leave the country. No-one is accountable."

Dr Qadi also admitted the Authority had uncovered evidence of UAE-wide visa trading scams. "We have noticed small clinics applying for a large amount of non-professional visas, more than they need for their manpower requirements," he said. "They are illegally trading them for money. This is happening across the country."

Medical Times understands that the inspection process is ongoing and that more clinics may face closure under the new rules.

"Residents and their families using healthcare facilities in Abu Dhabi can be assured that the Health Authority has established the highest quality of standards to ensure that facilities provide healthcare services in a clean and safe environment," the Authority said.

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