Via Saudi Gazette, an opinion piece with implications for the treatment of MERS cases: Dozing doctors and medical errors.
Serious medical errors are so common that healthcare professionals have become a laughing stock. Some of the medical mistakes are so stunning because one wouldn’t expect even an ordinary person to make such an error.
For example, in one case, doctors performed an operation on a patient’s healthy foot instead of the injured one.
However, anyone who looks into the reality of our hospitals will discover that, in many cases, the reason for the medical mistakes is not inefficiency and negligence but the inhumane working conditions medical professionals are subjected to.
Doctors and other medical personnel are forced to work long hours that are beyond their physical and mental capacity and at the same time they are not paid enough.
A study in 2011 on a sample of Saudi doctors in a fellowship program of the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties at King Abdulaziz University showed that 87 percent of them suffered from acute sleep deprivation.
A doctor is allowed only two hours’ sleep in the hospital during a 24-hour shift because his sleep is interrupted frequently. In other words, he is woken up several times to attend to emergencies. Also, resident doctors are made to work continuously for more than 36 hours without any rest or sleep.
According to foreign studies, doctors’ lack of sleep was the basic cause for about 50 percent of all serious and fatal medical errors. For this reason, many countries have set a ceiling on doctors’ working hours.
According to other studies, forcing doctors to work for long hours has resulted in negative phenomena in all aspects of their lives, including an increase in traffic accidents because they often nod off at the wheel. This also affects the quality of their family life.
Low salaries and delays in payment of their wages for several months at a time is another issue that must be addressed. Saudi and foreign doctors have often resorted to Twitter to air their grievances. Several hashtags were created by doctors demanding their back pay.
Nursing staff often find themselves in a similar situation. If these issues are not addressed, I am afraid preventable accidents will continue to occur.