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MENAFN - Arab News - 06/02/2010

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(MENAFN - Arab News) Doctors in the Kingdom will now be required to have medical malpractice insurance if they want to practice in the country.

According to reports, doctors renewing their Health Council certificate have to produce insurance documents valid for three years. There has been a growing number of cases of alleged medical malpractice in recent years. Last week, nine members of a medical team at a Jeddah hospital were indicted following the death of a doctor undergoing surgery.

"We are marketing this policy aggressively to meet the mandatory and market requirements and provide our services," said Muzaffar M. Shakeel, chief operating officer of the Allied Cooperative Insurance Group (ACIG). The policy covers legal liability toward third parties arising out of negligence by doctors. Shakeel said ACIG has designed its policy for all medical professionals, although it is only mandatory for doctors.

Shakeel claimed not all of the 30 insurance companies in the Kingdom were offering malpractice policies. A new study released this week revealed that protection and savings and health insurance were the fastest growing policies in the country.

In particular, health insurance accounts for around 44 percent of the overall insurance market as of 2008. The study, carried out by MarketResearch.com, says that Saudi Arabia's health insurance sector is expected to expand vigorously due to the increasing involvement of private companies and because foreign nationals and pilgrims are obliged to obtain cover.

In addition to this, the study says the recent introduction of compulsory health insurance for all private employees will further boost the market in the country. Saudi Arabia's insurance sector has been growing steadily since 2004 after the government decided to regulate insurance companies by issuing them licenses.

Previously they were operating as companies registered outside the Kingdom. First health insurance was made a requirement when renewing Iqamas, before third party vehicle insurance was made compulsory.

Dr. Mir Athar Ali, an orthopedic surgeon and medical director of Sameera Polyclinic in Jeddah, said that medical malpractice insurance was in the interest of medical professionals as well as patients as it gave protection to both parties.

He said he has insured himself ever since he came to the Kingdom two decades ago. "My premium is paid by my sponsor but I have taken out a policy for my doctor wife who works in another hospital because I am not sure whether she is adequately covered by her employer," he said. According to Ali, doctors and paramedics were not really aware of the existence of malpractice cover and are only now learning about it after the government made it mandatory.

By Shaheen Nazar

 






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