Hospital beds are riskier than aircraft, says expert

ABU DHABI — The risk of getting harmed in a hospital is far greater than when travelling in an aircraft, warned a medical consultant.

By Olivia Olarte

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Published: Wed 13 Oct 2010, 11:45 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:24 PM

“The chance of getting harmed in the hospital is one in 300, while on an aircraft it is one in one million,” said Dr Mubasher S. Kharal, consultant internist and director of Medication and Safety Programme at King Abdul-Aziz Medical City in Saudi Arabia.

In the US, there are between 44,000-98,000 preventable deaths per year, which equates to 106 crashes of Boeing 747-400s each year or two planes crashing per week.

“These preventable deaths have nothing to do with patient diseases at all,” Dr Kharal told healthcare delegates at the second day of the Arabian Public Health Forum 2010, which was held at the capital on Tuesday.

Compared to the healthcare sector, the aviation industry is doing very well because their system is designed to respond to every possible scenario that could go wrong, Dr Kharal stated.

“In the medical industry, we’re retroactive. If something goes wrong, everyone will start thinking of a way to fix it. We don’t think ahead of time that something could go wrong,” he pointed out, noting the prevalence of obesity in the region, which leads to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

“We have a lot of work to do in the healthcare industry, and what we need to do is start looking at changing our systems,” he added.

A study he had conducted in Saudi on 1,200 diabetics revealed that only 39 per cent were able to control their blood pressure, 55.4 per cent reached their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) goals, and 21 per cent were in control of their haemoglobin A1C.

“Unfortunately, this is the same in the Gulf region. We need to find ways to address this,” he said, attributing the low results to patient’s non-compliance as well as the doctor’s “inertia” or the inactiveness to follow-up on his patient.

In an endeavour to study the percentage of patients who are reaching their LDL-C goals in the region, the Emirates Cardiac Society launched the Centralised Pan-European Survey on the Under-treatment of Hypercholesterolemia (CEPHEUS) in December 2009.CEPHEUS is the first and the largest study ever conducted in the Gulf which enrolled around 5,300 patients on statin (cholesterol-lowering drug) treatment - 4,000 from Saudi Arabia, 700 from the UAE and 600 from the rest of the Gulf nations.

Dr Wael Almahmeed, chairman of the Emirates Cardiac Society and the principal investigator of the CEPHEUS study in the region told Khaleej Times previously that he expects to find similar results here as that in Europe, which showed that 45 percent of treated patients did not reach the LDL-C goal.

Patients who failed to reach their cholesterol goals are at high risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

“We need to have a commitment towards reducing the burden of cardiovascular diseases,” Dr Kharal stressed noting the importance of educating primary and family physicians on the proper care of high risk patients.

After the CEPHEUS results will be made available early 2011, Dr Almahmeed said a physician education will be conducted to look at the problem and solutions, and train doctors on how to reach the LDL-C goals.

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