Photo: Muscat Private Hospital in Bousher, Muscat, Oman. A family's child died due to negligence, according to the recent finding of the Oman Ministry of Health
A year and a half ago, an Omani couple gave birth to their child at Muscat Private Hospital, one of the 'top' private hospitals in Oman. The birth proved difficult and a C section was performed. The child was born OK though, and scored a 9 and 10 on the Apgar scale (a standard way to evaluate the health of a newborn, scored out of 10).
However, later that night there was a problem. The baby was having difficulty breathing, and had vomited some of the baby formula they had given it. Despite efforts to treat the problem, within a few hours the baby died.
The couple were convinced that the death would have been preventable if proper treatment had been given, and proceeded to seek to uncover the cause of the death through the courts and the Ministry of Health. In December last year they finally got confirmation that they had been correct, when the court appointed expert and the Ministry of Health officially found that Muscat Private Hospital and the paediatrician involved were negligent in their treatment, that the Dr. was not qualified for his role as a Senior Paediatritian, and that MPH had inadequate procedures (see document of the translated findings below).
Excerpt from the email sent by the mother following the report from the experts:
... As you are aware, we have taken up the matter with the Court and the Ministry of Health in order to ensure justice to our beloved baby and to prevent such incidents of dereliction of duty by medical professionals in Oman. Today, I’m writing to inform you that the Higher Medical Committee has finally given its verdict in our favour and found the doctor responsible for providing inadequate postnatal paediatric care and the MPH has inadequate protocols in case of an emergency which lead to the untimely demise of our beautiful baby [name removed by UD]. While their judgment won’t bring our baby back to our arms and there is no material that can compensate for him, it offers us some consolation that our fight for him and other innocent Babies did not go in vain, and hope that our efforts will prevent recurrence of avoidable paediatric catastrophes in future.
I've been sent a lot of the documentation, but here is certified translation of the key investigation findings from the Ministry of Health:
Medical errors and mistakes occur across the world everyday, unfortunately. No-one is perfect, and when imperfection meets critical health situations bad things happen. But this case highlights a few things that are more specific to the Oman healthcare environment.
For a start, it shows that ordinary people can successfully take such matters through the Omani legal process and win. This is really good, and not easy to achieve anywhere in the world. The court is due to rule on compensation and penalties for MPH this month. I understand the Dr. concerned has left MPH, but has anything changed at the hospital itself?
Second, the finding that MPH had inadequate protocols and systematically failed to execute accepted medical standard responses to what is a infrequent but very common and normal post-birth complication (generally 1-2% of births), calls into question the regulation and inspection of our many private clinics and hospitals, especially those that claim to be capable of offering advanced care. MPH's response to a neo-natal Pneumothorax - given that they are in the business of offering expensive maternity services, should have been slick, professional and effective, not dependent on a Dr. called in to deal with an emergency in the middle of the night.
Third, although this case involved an Omani couple, it's concerning that Expats in Oman are effectively forced by the Government to give birth in private hospitals unless there is a clear medical reason to go to the big state hospitals like Royal or University Hospital. Around the world, small private hospitals are fantastic for elective procedures, with no waiting, private rooms and nice food. They are almost like hotels (as is Muscat Private). But they are also potentially very dangerous places when something goes badly wrong, as they do not usually have a 24/7 operating theatre, long lists of experienced and specialist resident Doctors on duty, and are inexperienced with dealing with things when the shit hits the fan (because they don't happen very often). The usual response is to rush the patient to a big hospital asap.
And lastly these clinics are run for profit. There are often anecdotal reports of patients in Oman being subjected to expensive and unnecessary tests, or not receiving very good treatment at all. Doctors' qualifications can be dodgy. Clinics advertising "24hr Emergency care" are sometimes totally unfit to offer these services for anything serious, such as a heart attack or stroke. They simply waste time transfering the patient to a real hospital and, as a result, risk people's lives.
That the investigation was conducted and came to a ruling against MPH is to be lauded. BUT, The Ministry of Health needs to look to itself after this case, and see how it can improve the regulation of Private Hospitals in Oman.
My condolences to the family in this case, and I thank them for persevering against MPH in what must have been a devastating time of grief and something they must have wanted to do their best to forget. I also thank them for choosing to make their story public.
I am waiting to see if MPH have any comment to make on this case.