Medical staff violated code says Bahrain report
Manama, November 24, 2011
An independent commission probing Bahrain's unrest has confirmed several violations were committed by medical staff and others at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) in February and March.
It would not comment on cases relating to the criminal responsibility of medical personnel currently facing court action.
However, it said there was evidence that some medical staff flouted their code of ethics, pursued a political agenda, spread false rumours and information about events at SMC, participated in protests inside and outside the hospital, neglected expat patients and discriminated against others.
It also said there was 'reason to believe' ambulances had been used to transport protesters between the roundabout and Bahrain University where demonstrations were taking place on March 13.
The BICI also confirmed the 'seizure of the external part of SMC by the protesters who controlled access to the hospital' led to a massive reduction in the number of external patients accessing the hospital.
It added that Sunni expats became targets at the hospital.
'The evidence presented to the commission reveals that a number of injured expatriates who were brought to SMC were first attacked by protesters in different locations in the city and that they were also assaulted by the protesters in front of the emergency section,' it adds.
'Video tapes and witness statements show cases of mistreatment against patients because they were Sunni expatriate workers and thought to be part of the security forces. Such conduct, which is on tape and supported by the statements, is in contravention of the Bahrain Code of Medical Ethics.”
'Further, statements by witnesses suggest that the manner in which some of the doctors treated some injured expatriates rises to a level of human insensitivity and professional disregard for medical ethics.'
Meanwhile, some Sunni patients seeking access to SMC for medical treatment 'were turned away'.
'The commission received one video recording showing a Sunni carrying an infant and being denied access to SMC by three medical staff,' it said.
'In the video, he alleges that this was because of his sect. Several witness statements presented to the commission also support allegations of discrimination and denial of medical care.'
The BICI referred to video footage showing a Shi'ite cleric calling on 'strong young men' to control the entrance and exit of SMC.
It added that some medics were politically motivated.
'Some had political ties with the opposition and pursued a political agenda,' it said.
'Among them were some who were seen leading demonstrations and chants against the regime both outside and inside SMC. These persons moved in and out of their roles as political activists and medical personnel.'
It found evidence that some medical staff 'intentionally spread false rumours and information about the events at SMC', while at least one individual impersonated an SMC medical staff member and gave false information to a news agency.
Camera crews filming patients at the hospital was described as a violation of patient confidentiality.
The commission could not confirm whether medical staff took part in protests during work hours, but added that under Bahraini law such demonstrations are not allowed close to a hospital.
'It appears that SMC continued to function throughout the events of February and March,' it said.
'Nevertheless, those events caused considerable disruption to its operations. It is well established that the open areas outside the SMC buildings were occupied by protesters, who controlled the entrances and exits.”
'The commission finds that the occupation and control of the area by protesters hampered general access to the hospital and created a perception of an unsecure environment for those requiring medical care.
'Some Sunni patients seeking to gain access to SMC for medical treatment were turned away. Most of SMC's ground floor level, including the emergency section, the ICU and the administrative section, were taken over and controlled by medical personnel, resulting in difficulties for the emergency section.'
It criticised the involvement of some doctors and medical personnel in various political activities on and around the SMC premises.
'(This) was clearly difficult to reconcile with the full exercise of their medical responsibilities and highly disruptive to the optimum operation of an important medical facility in a time of crisis,' it said.
However, it added there was no evidence to show medical personnel misappropriated medical supplies.
It also said that overall, ambulances did perform their functions of carrying patients 'from all over Bahrain to SMC', including injured expatriate Sunni workers and injured Sunni students from Bahrain University.
Meanwhile, it found allegations that medical personnel assisted demonstrators by supplying them with weapons to be 'unfounded'.
'The only evidence presented to the commission supporting such allegations consists of pictures provided by the GoB (government of Bahrain) showing two Kalashnikovs on the floor of SMC,' it says.
'These photographs, whose sources cannot be authenticated, do not connect the two weapons to the medical personnel.'
Allegations that medical personnel took scalpels from the inventory to GCC (Pearl) Roundabout could not be verified.
'The commission could establish that medical staff members were attacked on their way to and from the GCC Roundabout,' it added.'The commission could establish that such attacks were carried out by security forces. However, the identity of some of the attackers could not be ascertained.'
The Interior Ministry in its response said that as there were thousands of people at the GCC Roundabout, security forces could not distinguish medical staff from protesters.
Meanwhile, the report confirmed patients at SMC were arrested if they were found to have sustained injuries at the GCC Roundabout when security forces took control of the hospital on March 16.
They were taken to a police station, interrogated and then released or transferred to detention. 'Security services executed unlawful arrests on SMC premises, and attacked and mistreated some individuals, including medical personnel,' it said.
Between March 16 and the end of May, a total of 64 medical professionals were detained or charged in relation to the events of February and March.
Of these, 62 have been detained at some point, while the remaining two have remained at large.
Thirteen were released without charge, while 51 have had cases brought against them.
Three have been convicted and are serving jail sentences.
Charges against 20 accused of felonies have since been withdrawn, while cases of 28 charged with misdemeanours are pending before the Lower Criminal Court. – TradeArabia News Service