Bahraini medical consultant Dr. Mohammed al-Muharraqi has talked about the trend across the Arab world of medical professionals becoming politicized by events in their countries; and the effect this has on them carrying out their duties.
In an article published by Voice of America’s “Middle East Voices” website, he observed that in many cases “medical personnel are becoming increasingly politicized, and to some extent militant. If this trend is allowed to develop unaddressed, the concept of ‘healthcare neutrality’, as we know it, may be changed drastically with potentially dangerous social reverberations”.
Discussing his experience of working in Bahraini hospitals during the 2011 unrest, Dr. Al-Muharraqi says that “Without a doubt, these were heated times but from the findings described, medical personnel in Salmaniya Hospital allowed their personal beliefs to become entangled with their healthcare provision during the unrest, thereby breaching the code of medical ethical conduct. In doing so, be it inadvertent or otherwise, they illustrated that patient care, at times, was not their primary concern.”
While he condemned the treatment some of these medics received from “rogue elements” of the security services, he stated that “medical decision making in Salmaniya Hospital was too often blurred by political motivation and ambition… These medical personnel are colleagues and friends whose actions I may disagree with, but whose plight deeply disturbs me.”
Dr. Al-Muharraqi noted the way that the international media seemed to misunderstand the context of events at Salmaniya Hospital. He pointed out that “the globally acclaimed MSF witnessed the unrest and events in SMC during February and March. Yet their findings have been disregarded internationally.”
He quoted a Médecins Sans Frontières April 2011 report which stated: “regardless of the reasons, health professionals making speeches and leading protests directly from the steps of the entrance to the hospital undermined the concept of a neutral hospital, as did the anti-government slogans painted onto the walls of the hospital… opposition protestors should also guarantee that the hospital will not be used as a political platform or a rallying point.”
He also cites the widely-ignored findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and stated that “medical personnel effectively jeopardized medical neutrality and impartiality while allowing personal (political and religious) beliefs to infiltrate their healthcare provision.
“The Commission also concluded that during this period of political and sectarian strife, patient confidentiality and consent were breached and patients’ lives endangered. The most worrying finding described the way in which expatriate patients’ non-maleficence and dignity were compromised by medical personnel.”
Mohammed al-Muharraqi’s article coincided with comments by Former chairman of the Medical University of Bahrain Jim Finucane, who was responding to allegations by the Irish Lawyers for Human Rights group, Ceartas, who asserted that Bahrain medical training centres should not receive accreditation, as a result of the medics controversy.
“I was in these hospitals every working day for the five years that I worked there,” Prof Finucane was quoted as saying by the Irish Medical Times.
Prof Finucane stated that as a result of the actions of a clique of opposition-affiliated medics there was a “hostile environment”, in hospitals that “violated medical neutrality”.
“It is inconceivable that individuals were tortured within the precincts of these hospitals, so I can’t believe there is any basis for that very serious allegation,” he said, adding that evaluation of the facility’s suitability for accreditation was “long overdue”.