Negligence kills seven in Saudi care centre, says consultant

Negligence kills seven in Saudi care centre, says consultant
3 min read
05 July, 2016
At least seven women have died of negligence in a Saudi rehabilitation facility in the past two month, a consultant working at the care centre claims.
Seven disabled women have died at the centre in two months [AFP]

A rehabilitation centre for disabled women in the Saudi city of Dammam has witnessed seven deaths in the past two months, local media reported.

The deaths were blamed on the "low level of care" offered by the centre's staff, according to Arab News.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a consultant who has worked at the centre for three years said he only began to notice injuries and "unusual" marks on the patients in the past five months, since the launch of a new project called "Hima" to develop rehabilitation centres in Saudi Arabia's eastern province.

The project attracted psychologists and social analysts in Dammam, which he said resulted in a lack of care for the female patients, eventually leading to their death.

The consultant suspects one of the cases had a broken pelvis, while another woman in her forties was suffering from inflammation and sores, and he recommended that she be transferred to another hospital.

However, the centre lacked the right mechanism for the transfer, and three cases died within one month despite the warnings, he said.

One of the cases had a broken pelvis, while another woman in her forties was suffering from inflammation and sores.

In response, the spokesperson for the Saudi ministry of labour and social development denied the media reports, saying that only one patient died within the past two months, while six others died within the past eight months.

All the women died while receiving medical treatment for chronic illnesses outside the rehab centre, Khaled Aba al-Khayl told reporters on Monday.

He added that the ministry would not hesitate to dismiss any staff member posing risks on the patients' lives.

Sarah al-Khalidi

The father of Sarah al-Khalidi, one of the girls who died at the rehab centre in Dammam, accused staff of failing to care for the patients and report what visitors did at the facility.

He added that staff were "careless and inattentive" because they believe families send their daughters to the rehab centre to "get rid of them".

"I took [my daughter] to the centre about two years ago in 2014, and she was suffering from atrophy of the brain and disability, and I visited her daily," he said.

When he went back to visit after two or three days of absence due to "family commitments", he added, she was suffering from bruises, which staff said might have resulted from falling off a table.

Sometimes during visits, Khalidi's daughter would have wet hair and smell of perfume, which he believes is meant to "conceal any signs of neglecting her hygiene".

Sarah al-Khalidi's father accused the staff of failure to care for the patients.

"But when they took her back inside the centre, she used to scream," he continued.

"Four days before she died I noticed she couldn't breathe and she coughed a lot, so I decided to take her to the doctor, but they refused to let me take her saying they would take good care of her."

He demanded to see the director of the centre but his request was denied.

On the day she died, Khalidi received a call informing him Sarah was in the children's hospital.

"I came rushing and found her with a cleaning lady who didn't speak Arabic nor English, and I learned her situation was critical. Her lungs were inflamed and there were blood clots in her nose and she only had hours to live," he said.

He blamed her death on the Damman Rehab Center for Girls because of their "carelessness" and even "violence", and called for punishing those behind the deaths.