In a 2015 survey conducted by Al-Wasat, a Bahraini newspaper, 94 percent of participants indicated that the quality of health services had deteriorated at Al-Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC), Bahrain’s largest public hospital and the only one that receives referrals from health centers in all five governorates. DMI has found that both the dismissal of experienced doctors for providing medical care to injured protestors in the wake of the 2011 popular uprisings and poor hospital management continue to contribute to a low standard of health at SMC.
The Bahraini government has also directly targeted medical personnel. In 2011, over 60 medics were arrested and tortured and the authorities dismissed 200 medics from their jobs after security forces surrounded and took over SMC. On 6 June 2011, a security court charged 47 health professionals, most of whom worked at SMC, during a closed hearing. Some served their full sentences, some had their sentences reduced, and some were eventually acquitted. Ali Al-Ekri, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, was arrested on 17 March 2011 while treating a teenage boy at SMC. Al-Ekri has served his five years prison sentence and was released on March 10, 2017. To date, at least 10 medical personnel remain dismissed from their previous positions at SMC, some of them having been forced into an early retirement scheme.
In 2015, Bahrain’s Ministry of Health reduced the limit of on-call hours from 156 to 70 hours per month for SMC doctors as part of new austerity measures. The regulation failed to take the needs of each department into account. Since the regulation went into force on 1 December 2015, the number of patients in some departments, especially in the Accidents and Emergency Department, increased due to the insufficient number of doctors on duty. Those who are on duty receive an increasingly higher number of patients. The new policy has thus delayed the delivery of medical care for countless patients.