DOCTORS at Bahrain's main hospital have been accused of snubbing sickle cell patients because they are "too scared" to implement new rules about morphine doses.
Campaigners yesterday claimed patients in severe pain had been refused admission to Salmaniya Medical Complex and were forced to seek treatment at private clinics.
The allegations come less than two weeks after the Health Ministry introduced controversial new rules making it mandatory for doctors to wait a minimum of eight hours between each dose of morphine given to patients.
They were introduced after SMC doctors claimed they were being forced to give sickle cell patients morphine injections to stop them turning violent.
Anyone found guilty of breaching them will face disciplinary action.
"Sickle cell patients in extreme pain are referred to SMC by health centres but doctors refuse to admit them saying they need to be treated at health centres," claimed Bahrain Society for Sickle Cell Anaemia Patient Care chairman Zakariya Al Kadhem.
"When the patient goes back to the health centre, he is sent to the SMC again.
"This process continues and the patient remains in pain.
"To escape the pain, the patient goes to a private clinic or hospital and pays a
big sum of money."
Health Minister Sadiq Al Shehabi earlier said demand for morphine among sickle cell patients was on the rise with 28,350 doses used monthly by public and private hospitals - an average of around 900 units a day.
But Mr Al Kadhem believes lives are being put at risk by the new rules.
"We agree there are patients who try and misuse the system and the facilities but all patients are suffering," he said.
Twelve patients have died of sickle cell disease so far this year, with the families of many blaming SMC bed shortages and accusing the authorities
Meanwhile, Mr Al Kadhem said there was confusion about when a state-of-the-art BD3 million Blood Diseases Centre, housed within SMC, would open.
"It was originally set to open last year and then they said it would open in January," he said.
"Later, new dates were given for February and then April. Now, we are hearing it may open in August.
"No one in the ministry is confirming when it will go on stream and are citing
The centre is expected to greatly assist in the treatment and management of patients suffering from genetic diseases such as sickle cell disease.
The four-storey 90-bed centre, the first-of-its-kind in the Gulf, has been connected to SMC with a walkway and will have access to all the hospital's facilities.
It will feature a 25-bed emergency room on the ground floor, with wards for children, men and women occupying the first, second and third floors.
Health Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.