Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Salmaniya Story

We have all heard of the atrocities at Salmaniya and the crimes against humanity caused by the doctors. Worse than those are the lies and fabrications that have become business as usual at the hospital which puts to shame this noble profession and all it stands for.

I met with a young doctor just making her way up the medical ladder and striving to go through her residency program when she met with a strenuous series of events that have forever changed her life. For the purpose of maintaining her anonymity I will call her "Amal"...

Amal gives a detailed account of her first hand experience at Salmaniya Medical Complex starting from february 17 which was the day the security forces made their first attempt to clear the roundabout from its newly formed colony of protesters.

"The following is a description of my experience as a health professional at the Salmaniya Medical Complex during the period of protests and unrest that occurred n the kingdom of Bahrain.
Since the beginning of the protest, an atmosphere of unrest and instability filled the hospital. The attitudes of some of our colleagues changed dramatically. Many of whom we thought were our friends became hostile against us just because we are from a different sect. or as they defined us "agents and spies for the system"
It is a sorrow feeling that I felt when lifelong friends disregard and ignore all the pleasant times we have spent together for political or sectarian conflicts.
As part of the residency program, I am required to complete rotations at the Salmaniya Medical Complex. 
I was rotating in the Accident and Emergency department during February 2011.
On the February 17th, I arrived at the emergency department at 7 am 
The first thing I saw was total chaos. A lot of people were running around, shouting and screaming. I approached the Shift In Charge doctor who instructed me to put on the disaster team apron and I was assigned to the "B" area. He instructed us to attend to cold cases as the injured protestors will be treated in the other areas.
The accident and emergency department was over crowded with hospital staff, nurses and an even larger numbers of cleaners, bystanders and photographer. Antigovernment slogans were shouted, rumors were spread about government officials resigning, ministers abandoning their posts and about mass murders and crimes being committed against "innocent people"by law enforcement personnel.
With every rumor spread, the rage and anger of the protestors increased. The antigovernment chants turned into outrageous threats against Sunnis.
A group lead by a hospital janitor and a male nurse were shouting "no mercy for foreigners or Sunnis"
many people were gathering at the reception and triage desks to register themselves as patients and from what I saw, they were neither injured nor sick. An action that only leads to piling up records and increasing the number of casualties in the registers
As our instructions were given out to us, our designated area was to receive cold cases only, hence it was quieter than the other areas. A staff nurse came into the room and started cursing us and called us traitors because we were not treating injured protestors.  At that time we had a patient who was suffering from a heart attack and we were managing his condition. The patient's condition was completely unrelated to the protests yet Photographers stormed the room and started taking photographs of the patient and talking to news reporters that he was a victim of police brutality.
They had not consented the patient to do such actions, they have not asked permission from the medical staff treating him. This is a sign of violation of patient rights and privacies.
Then a large group of protestors brought in a few of the injured and many nurses were tending to them in a chaotic manner that I have not seen like before.
Medical consultants from different specialities walked into the room and were talking to the press about the nature the injuries, which  were a lot less in extent and nature than the description they gave. The injuries were no different nor more than the cases that we see every day.
Once the protestors started to gather in the parking lot for mass riots, the crowds began moving out of the area i was working in. Then a nurse approached me with a paper and demanded that I sign my name on it. She said it is a petition against his majesty the king. I refused to sign on the grounds that [it was a clear defamation of the king].
The nurse became violent and shouted curses and foul language at me. The same attitude seems to be contagious as many hospital staff have done the same when they saw us.
I ignored the incident and tried to focus on my tasks but the fear that I might be assaulted by these radical protestors was great.
With every minute that passed, I could see the expressions on the people around me change. They were looking at me with anger and they started talking in very disrespectful manners.
Despite the fact that I was taking care of them, they began cursing me and calling me names. I feared that their aggression might escalate so I took permission from the in charge doctor to leave the hospital.
I was terrified to go back to the hospital the following day.
The next day, february 18th, I went to the hospital. My family insisted that I stay home as the conditions were not safe and taking into consideration the events that occurred they day before. But I still went as I had duties towards my patients.
Once I reached the hospital,  saw huge crowds protesting in the parking lots. The corridors were full of angry rioters and many photographers were taking photos of this chaos.
 I went to the emergency department. One of my colleagues who signed the petition that I turned away the day before was in the corridor. I approached her to say hello. She did not greet me back. I was shocked to see such change in her behavior and asked her about the reason behind this change. She boldly said that it is bigger than what she had thought was happening.
I would like to shed some light on the cases that we saw that day. Most of them were anxiety attacks and not serious injuries or life threatening conditions as what they have been claiming.
This summarizes my experience during the unfortunates events that befell our beloved kingdom. I know a lot of my colleagues who have been either harassed, insulted and a few who have been assaulted.
May my words help expose the truth of what really happened."

I didn't want to change any of Amal's words, even where there are typing mistakes because I wanted to maintain the integrity of the story and to keep it as "real" as I possibly can.  It is a shame that Amal has to live in fear of her life day in and day out. It Is a shame that she cannot publish her story herself and go on CNN and BBC and openly and confidently tell her story herself. However, the trust in media has diminished in a rapid manner since February 14 in Bahrain and especially among those who were not protesters calling for the fall of a government.

I asked her permission to tell her story because even though it is not controversial or sensational, it deserved to be told because it is the truth; something that has become a rare commodity in this day and age...


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