Fertility clinics in Bahrain facing clamp
Manama, September 30, 2009
All private IVF (invitro fertilisation) clinics in Bahrain have been ordered to set up facilities to handle premature births, instead of 'dumping' them on the state - or face being shut.
The move follows a spate of deaths of premature babies at the overcrowded neonatal unit at Salmaniya Medical Complex.
The deaths are being blamed on overcrowding, which in turn is being blamed on a rush of multiple births to women treated at private IVF clinics.
Health Minister Dr Faisal Al Hamer chaired a meeting with the IVF centres' representatives yesterday and expressed concern at the 'large number' of deaths at the neonatal unit in the last few weeks, said sources.
They said Dr Al Hamer and other officials were also worried that the country's infant mortality rate was being pushed up because of the 'irresponsible' behaviour of these private clinics, in implanting multiple embryos in their patients.
The meeting followed a report in our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News last Thursday that up to seven babies had died at the unit in the week leading up to the Eid holidays, with at least three being the result of a blood infection apparently stalking the overcrowded unit.
Four more deaths were blamed on other reasons, but all were related to overcrowding, sources said.
The unit is currently handling up to 60 babies at any given time, as against its capacity of around 40.
One doctor said last week that the overcrowding was so bad there were babies everywhere 'except the sink'.
'The minister was concerned that these private clinics treat the women and then 'dump' them on the public sector,' said sources.
'There was also outrage that while the private clinics make all the money, the public sector hospital gets the blame for what was not its doing.'
Clinics have been told to either comply with the new regulations or face heavy fines and even closure.
'It was declared at the meeting that all such clinics should be able to handle pregnancies as well as the resultant births,' said sources.
'They were told to have specialised baby care units where premature babies could be handled.'
Dr Al Hamer was also concerned at reports that some of the clinics were performing IVF on women who had been married for only three months, said the sources.
'It was declared that a tough new law was in the offing and would soon be discussed at the ministry, but until that happened, the regulations would be strictly enforced,' they said.
'The centres will soon be made aware of the new regulations and these would be binding.'
Ministry Under-Secretary Dr Abdul Hai Al Awadhi, primary care and public health assistant under-secretary Dr Mariam Al Jalahma, hospital affairs assistant under-secretary Dr Ameen Al Sa'ati and ministry licensure directorate head Dr Tawfeeq Naseeb were among those who attended.
Dr Al Sa'ati had earlier told the GDN that the overcrowding was stretching facilities to the limit, leading to fatalities from blood infections and due to the vulnerability of babies from multiple births. He said sometimes the hospital had to deal with women coming in with quadruplets and triplets, but no-one could be refused admission.
He said they ended up managing babies they knew had little or no chance of survival.
Dr Al Sa'ati also said several babies who were apparently almost well enough to go home were transferred to the Jidhafs Maternity Hospital to ease the overcrowding, but they came back to the SMC with a blood infection.
The ministry has since launched an investigation into the source of the infection, pending which babies almost well enough to go home are no longer being transferred to Jidhafs. They are being moved to other SMC wards instead, to ease overcrowding in the unit.-Tr