KUWAIT CITY, Jan 12: The Parliament deliberated Tuesday on the grilling request submitted by MPs Rakan Al-Nisf and Hamdan Al-Azmi against Health Minister Dr Ali Al- Obaidi on the alleged corruption and financial and administrative violations in the Health Ministry.
The minister stood on the grilling podium, ready to defend himself from the accusations hurled by the MPs. The grilling debate ended without any request for no-confi dence vote from the MPs and the minister thanked the MPs, National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak for fully supporting the health sector. He added, “I promise before the Parliament to take into account the observations mentioned in the interpellation as our goal, in the end, is to serve the citizens.” During the deliberations, Al-Azmi started his argument by taking an oath and pointing out that at the beginning of the current parliamentary term, HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah stressed the need to combat corruption and to protect public funds as a national duty.
He also quoted the prime minister as saying there should be no corruption considering it has crippled some countries, asserting the health minister has not fully grasped the meaning of these words. He accused the minister of misleading the Fatwa and Legislative Department and the Central Tenders Committee (CTC) in a bid to push for the signing of a contract with an American company — ATMI. He claimed the minister engaged in fraud and failed to obtain permission from the State
He said the head of the Health Office refused to sign the contract and emphasized the need to obtain approval from the bureau. He added they signed the contract in Kuwait, rather than in America, in compliance with the instruction of Al- Obaidi. He also accused the ministry’s undersecretary of instructing the head of the Health Office to extend the overseas treatment period for some patients without consulting the Overseas Treatment Department.
He disclosed that 40,000 citizens — most of whom underwent cosmetic procedures and treatment for skin diseases — benefited from the extension which cost not less than $150,000. He alleged the minister has manipulated procedures for payment of bills by making the State pay additional amount over the original bills. He called on the minister to step down, because it is only under his tenure that the ministry witnessed widespread corruption and violation of laws.
Accusing the minister of using his authority to give preference to his health company over other companies in awarding contracts and tenders, Al-Hamdan held the minister responsible for medical errors that led to the death of several citizens due to the mistakes of unqualified and fake doctors. He said the minister must shoulder the responsibility and resign after the fake doctor incident. He asserted Al-Obaidi has not fulfilled and will not fulfill his promise because he has no guts like former Minister Masoumah Al-Mubarak in the Jahra Hospital fire incident and former Education Minister Ahmed Al- Mulaifi when an accident resulted in the death of two workers at Al-Shadadiya University.
On the other hand, Al-Nisf clarified the interpellation was not meant to attack anybody personally, stressing this grilling is the minister’s own doing. He cited the alleged corruption and financial irregularities in several government health facilities like Amiri, Adan and Chest Hospitals. Responding to the proponents of the grilling, Al-Obaidi argued that as a minister who won the trust of HH the Amir, he is sure that he performed his duties well. The minister said that since he assumed office, 26 projects were implemented including the opening of Al-Razi Hospital and introduction of air ambulances. He affirmed he is always on the front row as he is keen on taking responsibility for whatever happens in the ministry.
He explained he never intended to look deeply into disease-related cases as he respects the privacy of patients, indicating not all the cases mentioned in the interpellation are medical errors. He also denied succumbing to pressure from anyone, stressing there is no truth in the allegation that the number of medical errors increased under his tenure. He also confirmed taking initiatives to protect the patients’ rights, disclosing the ministry has forwarded the Patients Right Draft Law to the Council of Ministers for study, stating the draft law includes stipulation on the insurance system against medical errors. The minister denied personally making profit from medicines, indicating he did not sign anything and all the points mentioned in the interpellation came through the medical committees. He added, “What is mentioned in the interpellation has no connection with the automated link, while the contract has yet to be signed. I am ready to accept any action you deem fit.”
Moreover, MP Ahmed Al-Azmi, who spoke in support of the interpellation, stressed that medical errors are now causing alarm to every citizen and resident. He affirmed has no personal issue with the minister as he is just keen on seeing the implementation of genuine reforms in the ministry. MP Faisal Al-Shaye, in support of the grilling, argued that even though medical errors are inevitable; the disaster lies in the fact that the errors were committed by unqualified doctors who killed innocent people.
Speaking against the interpellation, MP Yusuf Al-Zalazalah stated the minister has taken a bold step to respond to all the points mentioned in the grilling motion. He said the minister has formed an investigative committee, consisting of three top ministry officials, to look into the medical errors. MP Saadoun Hammad Al-Otaibi, who also opposed the interpellation, argued that counterfeiting or impersonation occurs in all ministries. He mentioned as an example the Ministry of Defense where a corporal, who was clad in the uniform of a captain, inspected camps. He claimed this malpractice is in the interest of the defense minister just to prove that the personnel are vigilant. “What is happening today is merely for political gain,” he lamented.
In another development, the Parliament allocated one hour before deliberations on the grilling to eulogize the late MP Nabil al-Fadel, followed by the discussion on the request to lift the immunity of MP Abdullah Al-Tamimi in relation to the lawsuit filed against him by former MP Mohammed Al-Hayef Al-Mutairi. The Parliament rejected the request, with only 19 members voting in favor
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff