Although it boggles the mind that this should be an ongoing problem, apparently the Saudi MOH is concerned that health practitioners are still not reporting all MERS cases to the Ministry of Health – essentially covering up cases.
Last month it was widely reported in the Saudi press that Hospitals that do not report MERS cases would be shut down, with the the ministry undersecretary for general health warning:
“Fines of up to SR100,000 will be imposed on the facilities and on health practitioners who conceal cases, do not report them or do not take the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the disease.” - Abdul Aziz Bin Saeed
Now, based on a statement posted today on the Saudi MOH website, a prison term of up to 6 months can be tacked on for failure to report as well.
05 June 1436
From the keenness of the Ministry of Health to improve the work in health facilities, and to ensure the reduction of the spread of the virus (Corona) that causes respiratory syndrome, the Middle East, The ministry has stressed the need for the health practitioner's commitment to including issues of the decisions and instructions governing the reporting of infectious diseases, and are reported to the competent authorities, directly or through an entity that owns the health practitioner, including virus (Corona).
And the Minister of Health in the mainstream with his face to the directorates of health affairs in all regions of the Kingdom, the ministry emphasizes the paramount importance of reporting suspected syndrome Middle East respiratory (Corona) through the system adopted (fort); because the status quo is actively infectious diseases associated with, including Syndrome Middle East respiratory (Corona), requires all health practitioners to take maximum vigilance and readiness degrees.
Circular also stressed that the lack of communication or delay in reporting cases presents health practitioner violator to criminal responsibility and punishment prescribed in the system, and that link to jail for a period not exceeding six months and a fine of not more than 100 thousand riyals, or one of the two penalties, disciplinary sanctions the other, in addition to the consequent penalties of up to revocation of the license to practice the profession and write off the name of the licensed record.
While trying to hide cases may seem like absolute folly, it isn’t difficult to envision cases where the temptation may exist.
- Hospitals or clinics that report nosocomial infections are subject to additional scrutiny by the MOH, including a review of their infection control protocols, which if found wanting could result in fines or other punitive actions (in extreme cases, even closure – see Saudi MOH Closes Riyadh Dialysis Center Over MERS Concerns).
- Hospitals or clinics that admit to having MERS cases are likely to see a decrease in patient census, or difficulties keeping staff, over MERS concerns
- And wealthy or powerful patients may offer `incentives’ to practitioners to avoid the stigma of being labeled a `MERS’ case.
Just how big a problem this really is in Saudi Arabia is hard to say, but the MOH has been ratcheting up MERS reporting and infection control warnings to healthcare facilities since early last fall.