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Public Hospital, medical staff drawn into Bahrain strife

April 13, 2011 - Manama

Bahrain's government forces have cracked down on its largest public hospital Salmaniya Medical Complex and arrested several doctors and other members of the medical staff, accusing them of anti government activities and protesting against the government.

Soldiers, covering their faces to hide their identities stand guard outside the gates of the hospital, whose clinics lie virtually empty of patients, many of whom have been detention for participating in protests, doctors claim.

Almost a dozen doctors and nurses have been arrested and held prisoner during the past month, and many paramedics and ambulance drivers are missing.

Health care workers and human rights advocates have said that the government forces have blocked ambulances from aiding wounded patients, The New York Times reports.

The crackdown is centered on Salmaniya, the country's main referral hospital, ambulance depot, center for emergency care and blood bank, but doctors at neighborhood clinics say that patients are afraid to visit them as well adding that they do not have enough blood, Antibiotics and emergency equipment to treat the patients who would otherwise go to Salmaniya.

The problems at Salmaniya began two months ago when demonstrators began using the parking lot in front of the emergency ward for protests, and some doctors joined in while they were supposedly on duty.

Doctors and international human rights workers in Bahrain say the purpose of the crackdown is to instill terror in doctors, so that they don't care for wounded demonstrators, and to instill fear in protesters, that being injured could get them arrested.

The Bahrain government believes that Salmaniya and other local clinics are nests of radical Shiite conspirators trying to destabilize the country, but many doctors at Salmaniya believe that the hospital has been converted into an apparatus of state terrorism, and sick people have nowhere to go for care.

Richard Sollom, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights, said that the security forces have gone so far as to steal medical records like X-rays of people injured in demonstrations, apparently to hide human rights violations, adding that doctors are the ones who have evidence, and so are being targeted.


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