Ministry sacks officials involved in HIV blood transfusion case

JEDDAH: Khadija Habib

Published — Monday 18 February 2013

Last update 18 February 2013 10:52 am

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The Ministry of Health announced it has relieved several officials from their posts as a result of the “gross mistake” of transferring HIV-contaminated blood to a young girl in a public hospital in Jazan. The relief included director of Jazan Public Hospital, the hospital’s medical manager and the director of the laboratory and blood bank. The latter has been fined SR 10,000.
The ministry said in a statement that the incident was a huge mistake and that it deeply apologizes to “the girl, her parents, her family and to Saudi society” for the pain inflicted on the girl and affirms that it is committed to bringing to account anyone who was negligent in the case and to preserving the rights of the girl and her family and the rights of the public.
The ministry sent the girl, 13-year-old Riham, to King Fahd Specialist Hospital in Riyadh. Riham is a sickle cell disease patient who has had blood transfusion every year at the same hospital where the accident took place.
The ministry has formed an investigative team of specialists following the incident and has assigned the committee on Violations of the Health Professions Practice Act to the case. Based on the committee’s recommendations, the ministry decided to halt blood donation at the blood bank at the Jazan public hospital, of which the requirements of blood units and derivatives will be serviced by King Fahd Hospital until a specialist committee finishes assessing the situation.
The committee also recommended restructuring the laboratories and blood bank administration at the Jazan region’s Health Affairs, with the General Administration for Laboratories and Blood Banks assigned to appoint a new administration in coordination with the Health Affairs Department in the region.
Other recommendations included revoking the practice license and firing the laboratory technician involved in the accident, sacking the blood bank supervisor at Jizan Public Hospital and the regional AIDS Program coordinator from their posts and fining them each SR 10,000, in addition to firing the director of laboratories and blood banks in the region from his post. The fine amount is the maximum for the violation according to regulations. The committee has recommended that the case be referred to the Sharia Health Commission in the Jazan region for a decision concerning the private rights of the girl in question.
The ministry’s statement said that the incident was the result of failure to implement standards required in blood banks at the blood bank in at the Jizan Public Hospital. It said the mistake was an individual one and that all blood banks in the country are committed to work as per the highest quality and safety standards.
The medical team assigned to the case by the ministry said there is a chance the girl did not contract the disease as she was given antiviral medications shortly after the case was discovered.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) demanded that the Ministry of Health immediately begin examining blood transfusion procedures and mechanisms countrywide to ensure such mistakes are not repeated. It also stressed the ministry’s duty to provide the girl and her parents with all the financial and moral support they need.
The girl’s uncle, Muhammad Hakami, said she is in a poor emotional state and questioned why the ministry did not provide her with a psychiatric team. She is taking medication every day and is waiting for the test results at the children's ward, he said.
The HRC called for expediting the issuance of the AIDS Patients’ Act of which the draft was prepared by the HRC and discussed recently at the Shoura Council.

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