Updated with a statement from Hamad Medical Corp.
Days after a gas tank explosion killed 11 people and injured 35 others in Doha, questions are being raised about how Qatar’s healthcare system has handled the crisis.
Among the injured taken to government-backed Hamad Hospital on Thursday is 40-year-old Mohammed Ismail, a limousine driver from India who was having breakfast with three of his friends at an eatery next to Istanbul Restaurant, where the blast occurred.
Ismail was admitted after the accident, but then discharged within hours, his cousin Mohammed Iqbal told Doha News. This is despite the fact that he has 60 stitches on his head, swelling on his face, a forearm injury and cuts on his eye.
When Ismail returned to Hamad later that night because he was in pain, the hospital said they did not have a room for him and could not admit him, Iqbal said.
“We don’t know what to do… They are saying he is okay and he is normal but he isn’t.”
Qatar is still investigating the cause of the blast.
State news agency QNA reported that Hamad Medical Corp.’s response to the explosion was undertaken with “the utmost professionalism and according to the emergency safety plan to take effect in such situations.”
But Ismail told the Peninsula that he was only admitted to the hospital some five hours after the blast occurred, once his friend retrieved his Qatar ID from his car, which was parked near the blast by Landmark Mall. He was discharged two hours later.
HMC, which was also criticized over its response to the Villaggio fire tragedy in 2012, declined to officially comment to Doha News about Ismail’s case. But an ICU doctor at Hamad said the hospital was overwhelmed with patients the day the explosion took place.
The doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, added that it was logical to treat those with serious injuries first, and transfer the less serious injuries to a different hospital.
In a statement issued this evening and posted below, HMC said that in addition to the gas tank explosion, it was grappling with two other major incidents on Thursday, which resulted in an influx of some 70 patients.
HMC said “optimal and appropriate emergency response” was given to all patients involved in the accidents, one of which appeared to be a gas leak in the Industrial Area. The statement continued:
“Our highly trained professionals led by an international team of emergency specialists met the challenge, providing world-class care to each and every one of those people in need according to their injuries…
Those who have been discharged continue to receive support and follow-up care from HMC’s medical professionals as well as from our partner facilities at Primary Care Centers in Doha. Should they require, our facilities remain at their disposal even after they have been transferred to their local primary care provider.”
It added that identification is not required prior to treating an emergency patient.
Doha News was denied access to interview injured patients who remained in Hamad Hospital on Monday.
“This incident is a very sensitive one, and we cannot talk about it that easily, especially when we have had a lot of fatal cases and patients who died,” a manager at a nursing station at HMC said.
Another official at Hamad Hospital told Doha News that Ismail, along with many of the other 25 patients who were discharged by Friday, should have been transferred to the Madinat Khalifa Health Center.
But according to Ismail’s cousin, the center refused to treat him because he did not have a health card – something he did not know he needed. His friend Sharafudheen, another blast victim, was also refused treatment there, the Peninsula reports.
A doctor at the center told Doha News today that “such a small facility cannot possibly accommodate critically injured patients as there are no ICU units or patient rooms available.”
Ismail was apparently then directed to Rumaila Hospital, and after that, Al Wakrah Hospital. The run-around has been frustrating and painful for the expat, who has lived in Qatar for nearly four years.
“No one is responding to us. Why can’t the Indian embassy come and meet us. So many Indians died and are badly injured, still they don’t come,” Iqbal said.
Ismail’s wife and three children in India have been informed about the accident, but not the extent of his injuries, the cousin added.
Here is the full HMC statement: