Relief for patients as closed Sharjah hospital is ordered to reopen

Ministry of Health orders the reopening of the Sharjah Central Private Hospital after its management agrees to increase medical staff and equipment.

SHARJAH // A hospital shut down by health inspectors for having too few medical staff and inadequate equipment has been told it can reopen on Saturday.

Expectant mothers were left out of pocket, with nowhere to have their babies and without access to their medical records when the 60-bed Central Private Hospital closed abruptly last weekend.

Hospital managers have now promised to hire more doctors and nurses and have already bought new medical equipment, and the Ministry of Health has given them the go-ahead to reopen.

“The ministry wanted to give them another opportunity,” said Saqr Al Qassimi, assistant under secretary at the ministry and director of Sharjah Health Zone.

“The hospital has provided proof of its commitment to carry out the necessary changes, including purchasing the required medical equipment, which it bought from the Arab Health Exhibition taking place in Dubai.

“The ministry’s objective was not punishment, but to guarantee the quality of the medical service provided. Patient safety is our main priority.”

A note at the hospital entrance yesterday said it was closed until February 2 for “maintenance work”.

The sudden closure of the hospital, one of the oldest private medical facilities in Sharjah and a popular affordable option for many uninsured low and middle-income families, sparked an outcry.

Many patients, including expectant mothers, were left with no access to their medical files and unsure of what would happen to advance cash payments they had made.

Anish Andrews’s wife gave birth at the hospital on January 18, but when it closed he was unable to obtain a birth notification for his child, which meant he could not apply for a birth certificate.

“I was at the hospital at the same time that the health inspectors were there so the administrators told me to come back the next day, but when I went back the next day the hospital was closed,” he said.

Without a birth certificate the family had trouble arranging screening tests for their newborn son and feared they would be unable to get a passport for their child.

“It has taken so much of our time and provoked a lot of tension to chase this,” said Mr Andrews.

The Ministry of Health intervened and asked the hospital to provide him with a birth notification. But he says the experience has left him reluctant to deal with the hospital when it reopens.

“There is a risk that this could happen again, and why should I waste my valuable time?”

When the hospital closed, Senait Asfaw, who is due to give birth on February 15 and whose first child was born there two years ago, paid about Dh1,500 to register with another hospital.

Nevertheless, she welcomed the reopening. “It is really good that they will be allowed to operate again. I will go back to follow up with them as soon as they open.

“I had to register with another hospital as I could deliver any time but now I will go with Central Private Hospital because they are good and they are not greedy. They do not force you to pay for a lot of extra things.”

For Sakina Mai, whose pregnant daughter Ayesha, 22, is due “any time now”, a stressful wait remains. Central Private Hospital has her daughter’s medical records on file, but by the time it reopens Ayesha is likely to have gone into labour.

“She has been having a lot of pain today and we will wait for a day before we take her to hospital,” said Mrs Mai, a Pakistani expatriate who has lived in Sharjah for 26 years.

“I still don’t know where we will go and which hospital will take her without any records. It’s all up to Allah now.”

The hospital's management refused to comment.
* Additional reporting by Ramola Talwar