Sana’a hospitals fight to stay open after orders to shut down

Published on 17 April 2014 in Health & Environment
Amal al Yarisi (author)

Amal al Yarisi

Hospital managers say hospitals that have carried out reforms deserve another shot at remaining open, despite orders to shut down.

Hospital managers say hospitals that have carried out reforms deserve another shot at remaining open, despite orders to shut down.

Several of the hospitals ordered to be shut down by the Ministry of Pubic Health and Population last August remain in operation.

The Women and Children’s Hospital,  located on Khawlan Street in Sana’a, is a three-story building housing about 50 beds and several units, including an operations unit, intensive care and emergency.

The hospital appears to be clean and organized and the manager says he has recently introduced a host of reforms.

The Ministry of Health issued the order to permanently shut down seven private hospitals in the capital city including the Women and Children’s Hospital. The ministry said that upon inspection the hospitals were found to be in serious violation of health regulations.

The six other hospitals ordered closed were Al-Salam, Al-Madina, Sharha, Al-Sahab, Khalifa Bin Zaied and the Shaher Al-Shibani Surgery Center. There are currently 62 privately-run health facilities registered in the capital city (three clinics and 59 hospitals) according to the ministry.

Some of the above mentioned hospitals complied with the decree and closed their doors to the public, but others have continued operating while at the same time implementing reforms.

Last year, the Ministry of Public Health told the Yemen Times that it was only responsible for issuing the orders for closure, not enforcing them. That task, it said, fell on the local council and the Ministry of Interior, which was supposed to notify the appropriate police units to ensure the closures.  

The management of the Women and Children’s Hospital say they have taken numerous measures to enable them to continue receiving patients.

A manager at the hospital, Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Zabidi, said he has taken steps to improve the overall condition of the hospital, including refitting the floors and overhauling the ventilation system.

“The entire hospital was also painted in addition to replacing wooden doors and windows with glass windows and doors. “

He said the Ministry of Health sent an inspection committee to the hospital to document its condition.  

Al-Zabidi said he made the improvements to the hospital based on the committee’s criticisms. “I closed the hospital for a brief period, less than a month, and then reopened it. I will not shut it down at any cost,” he said.

Al-Zabidi now claims that the Women and Children’s Hospital has met the ministry’s requirements in addition to being provided with qualified staff and updated equipment.

“We will continue negotiating with the ministry and the local council to put forward alternative solutions. It is possible,” he said.

But Al-Zabidi criticized the Ministry of Health for what he says is its stubborn insistence on closure despite the reforms.

“Everyone is fallible. The ministry has the right to ask for correction, not simply order closure as the sole solution,” he said.  

“This is unfair and we will not accept it. We will continue complaining to the local council considering it is the authority that is first in charge of dealing with this issue,” added Al-Zabidi

Ali Naji, a private sector employee who was interviewed in the waiting room while a female relative was in the maternity ward, expressed his satisfaction with the hospital.

“We have not heard anything bad about the reputation of the hospital. I have come to this hospital because of its services, reasonable price of medical tests and its good staff,” said Naji.   

The Al-Sihab Hospital also remains open and when the Yemen Times visited there were patients and visitors in the waiting rooms and wards.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Kayal, the owner and CEO of Al-Sihab Hospital, said the reforms cost him roughly YR 70 million ($325,710). “I did not close the hospital even for one day. It provides jobs for 50 employees—their families depend on [the hospital] for income. Also, we cannot discharge the patients who are in need of health care.”

According to Al-Kayal, the minister of public health and population said that another committee would visit the hospitals in the next few days to evaluate the reforms. He is optimistic that the ministry will withdraw its initial decision to close the hospitals.

Once he received the notice to shut down the hospital, Al-Kayal went to the judiciary. He said Al-Sihab Hospital was opened 20 years prior under license from the Ministry of Health and that in that time numerous committees evaluated the performance and conditions of the hospital and did not find reason for it to cease operations.

“The Health Ministry’s [latest] committee closed the hospitals without clear reasons,” Al-Kayal said.  

In a press conference held in August of last year, Health Minister Dr. Ahmed Al-Ansi said “the evaluations of the hospitals were done in April in cooperation with the Health Office in the capital city and the Private Hospital Union. The committees that evaluated the hospitals comprised of doctors, pharmacists, lab experts and medical [specialists].”

Late last year, the Yemen Times obtained a copy of the document ordering the closure of the Women and Children’s Hospital. The document detailed the reasons for the hospital’s closure, which included a lack of beds, a lack of proper ventilation in operating rooms, and leaking sewage pipes in the hospital yard.  

Dr. Yahia Al-Ghasali, the general manager of the private medical facilities department at the Ministry of Health, said that although the hospitals carried out reforms, the decision to shut them down has not been withdrawn.

“The hospitals do not have an elevator, a resuscitation room, or a blood pressure meter in the emergency department. This is a big problem,” said Al-Ghasali.   

He added that if the council finds that reforms are implemented in a satisfactory manner, then the decision to close the hospitals may be withdrawn.

The Yemen Times attempted to contact the local council and the Health Office manager in the capital city but calls were not answered.