POTENTIALLY dangerous weaknesses have been revealed in an audit of Bahrain's health services.
Mistakes in medication could happen because of an outdated filing system, with medical records so far only being kept on paper and not on a computer network, says a preliminary report.
Some Health Ministry staff are also ignoring basic safety measures, according to the assessment, by a team from the Canadian Council for Health Accreditation.
Their preliminary report was presented last Thursday to Health Minister Dr Nada Haffadh.
"The report points out some issues that we need to take care of," said Primary Care and Public Health Assistant Under-Secretary Dr Mariam Al Jalahma yesterday.
"For example, our radiologists in primary care are not wearing the proper badges and we do not have any electronic medical records."
She said the two issues had been listed as causing 'concern' since they could in jeopardise the health of patients and staff.
"The Canadians have pointed out that the absence of electronic medical records could result in some 'different' medications being given to a patient if he went to a health centre which is not his regular health centre," said Dr Al Jalahma.
"This could be avoided if patient records are available online."
Dr Al Jalahma said the ministry was already working on having medical records available online.
Radiologists should weare badges which reveal the level of radioactivity they have been exposed to, as a safety measure - but many have not been doing so. Action has already been taken to assess this, she said.
Difficulty in tracing patients' laboratory records has also been highlighted in the preliminary report.
Patients are normally given appointments to pick up their lab results and then see a doctor. But if they fail to keep the appointment, the records vanish into the paperwork labyrinth and can be difficult to trace, says the report.
"We have a filing system that is not always accurate, so we have to have these online as well, which would enable the records and laboratory reports to be retrieved at the press of a button," said Dr Al Jalahma.
On the positive side, she said, the assessors have been impressed with the "willingness to learn and the enthusiasm" of the ministry staff.
As part of the assessment, conducted at the Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) for a week and for 10 days at the primary health care facilities, all senior officials as well as those in key positions were interviewed by the team, on how they work to deliver health care.
The visit was in response to a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Bahrain and Canada late last year. All officials, including Dr Haffadh, were interviewed individually as well as in groups on leadership issues, delivery of services, human resources, security and safety as well as quality management.
The team will now prepare a detailed report on its deliberations and present its findings in three weeks.
Depending on what the team recommends, several 'weak' areas will receive help in strengthening themselves.
Another team, also from Canada, will arrive in Bahrain 18 months after the recommendations of the present team have been implemented.