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The Saudi health ministry needs a major reshuffle

Ministries are called upon to address prevailing problems that are due to poor management and lack of quality control

Khaled Almaeena

Published: Updated:

The Saudi Ministry of Health needs a major reshuffle. Ministries are called upon to address prevailing problems that are due to poor management, lack of quality control, nepotism (in my opinion), corruption and the power struggles that delay any constructive action that can serve the needs of the public.

Ministries should apply modern practices to put their administrations on the right track. These suggestions could be of great benefit to the new minister of health who has the major task of upgrading the services of the health sector.

Obviously, drastic changes are needed. The Ministry of Health has been suffering from poor management, carelessness, nepotism and corruption. So far there are no serious measures being taken to hold officials accountable for the abuse of power.

It is unacceptable to close a medical facility and endanger the lives of its patients many of whom are seriously ill

Whenever there is a mishap in a government hospital, the ministry’s public relations machinery starts to work blaming everyone except themselves. Even patients are blamed. However, if any shortcoming is found in a private hospital or polyclinic, it is closed immediately with no official warning, no thorough investigation and no opportunity to respond. It is always an arbitrary act.

A group of ministry personnel along with a group from the labor office conduct the raids. They often give flimsy excuses for closing the hospital or polyclinic. Then within 24 hours after the closure, negotiations start to reopen the facility.

Usually it is the licensing departments of the ministry that issue these orders. There are also many questions raised about the nature of these negotiations and the way they are conducted.

The minister of health should immediately put a stop to this. It is unacceptable to close a medical facility and endanger the lives of its patients many of whom are seriously ill.

Horror stories

We urge the minister to sit with owners of polyclinics and hospitals and take notes. The rules and procedures of licensing and other departments in the ministry should be redefined.

There have been horror stories reported about dialysis patients who were forced to stop their treatment when their hospital was closed and of heart patients and cancer patients who could not find immediate appointments or proper treatment in other hospitals.

Arbitrary decisions based on the personal whims or interests of those in power should be stopped. They should not be allowed to issue orders that could endanger the lives of vulnerable patients.

The minister should also recognize that primary health care can save the nation billions. People will not invest in the medical field if their business is affected by corrupt dealings or is subject to rigid regulations.

Let the media be a partner and allow it to play a more responsible role. Together let us all join forces and fight the negative practices that stand in the way of implementing better health care.

The health of the nation is very important. An alliance between the government, the private sector and the media can help our nation develop and prosper.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on March 2, 2015.

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Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm, Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Russia. He also traveled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena's political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post. He can be reached at kalmaeena@saudigazette.com.sa and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena

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