Bahrain medical units 'operating normally'
Manama, April 8, 2011
Bahrain has strongly denied allegations by international organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which has accused authorities of denying patients access to medical treatment.
The body claimed that Bahrain's hospitals had been occupied by the military and were 'no longer safe havens for the sick and injured, but rather places to be feared'.
It was referring to Salmaniya Medical Complex, which had to be secured by authorities after being overrun by protesters last month.
The Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, has run a series of articles highlighting abuse of the facility by anti-government factions, who stole drugs and equipment from the hospital and attacked Asian patients seeking treatment, among other things.
Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority last night condemned the MSF criticism and said it was part of a concerted campaign by protesters to undermine the government.
'Medical facilities are operating as normal in Bahrain following a significant period of disruption because of the protest movement. These continuing allegations, which appear to lack any firm evidence, seem to be part of an ongoing, orchestrated campaign by the protest movement,' it said in a statement.
'Prior to action taken by police to secure the hospital, Salmaniya Medical Complex was used as a co-ordination centre by protesters and had been overrun by political and sectarian activity, severely interrupting services and endangering lives.
'During this period, patients were refused treatment on the basis of their sect or ethnicity and emergency calls neglected.
'The hospital grounds were barricaded and Salmaniya was very clearly no longer a neutral, medical establishment with its politicisation led directly by certain senior medical staff.
'As a result, the action to secure the hospital was both unavoidable and necessary.'
The government said that since then no patient had been refused treatment and admissions had continued.
'For example, almost 400 patients were admitted into Salmaniya in the week leading up to the visit of Medecins Sans Frontiers, with over 70 admitted on March 21, when MSF stated the hospital was 'virtually empty',' it said.
'It is an absolute principle that medical facilities in Bahrain are not misused for any end by anyone and this is why action was taken to secure the hospital in the first place.
'The Ministry of Health and Ministry of Interior both have established means and mechanisms to deal promptly with anyone in authority shown to be acting improperly.
'Specific allegations regarding actions taken by any individuals should be submitted, along with any evidence, for investigation,' the Information Affairs Authority statement added.