Sunday,22 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February
Sunday,22 July, 2018
Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February

Ahram Weekly

Shocking treatment

Al-Ahram Weekly

On 7 February prosecutor Ismail Hafiza ordered the detention of the manager and two employees of Al-Nada Centre for Drug Rehabilitation for 15 days pending investigations into charges that they abused patients while running an unlicensed medical facility. Police investigations began following the death at the centre last week of 20-year-old Alaa Nabil. Nabil’s father was informed by the Al-Nada Centre that his son had committed suicide. He immediately contacted the police.
“My son had complained repeatedly about the way the staff at the centre tortured him. At the time I just thought he wanted to get out of the treatment,” said the dead man’s father.
Preliminary investigations revealed that Alaa died of chronic injuries sustained at the centre. They also uncovered video footage, filmed by a patient, of centre employees mistreating patients. The film depicts naked patients with shaven heads, their arms and legs bound.
It is alleged that patients at the centre were subjected to electric shocks and beaten with wooden and metal sticks. Some were cut with knives.
Mohamed Gamal, manager of the centre, denies he was involved in the abuse and blamed employees for instigating the torture. Mohamed Saad, one of the accused employees, said he and his colleague were only following instructions issued by the centre’s doctors.
“Doctors ordered us to beat patients suffering epileptic fits. They told us that the seizures were a side effect of the patients’ addiction. We are just employees. We are neither doctors nor paramedics,” said Saad.
Hafiza has ordered a medical committee to look into the case and determine whether the centre was qualified to provide drug rehabilitation programmes. He also requested the testimony of three eyewitnesses to the torture of patients at the centre.  
Ministry of Health and Population spokesman Ahmed Omar revealed in a press conference on 10 February that Al-Nada Centre for Rehabilitation is unlicensed.
“The centre is neither registered with the Ministry of Health and Population nor with the National Council for Mental Health,” said Omar. He added that what purported to be a drug rehabilitation clinic was in fact an ordinary apartment in the Cairo suburb of Al-Muqattam.
Ahmed Abul-Azayem, head of the Qualitative Union for Prevention from Drug Addiction, says part of the problem is the stigma that continues to be attached to mental health issues, including drug addiction. Egypt also faces a shortage of psychiatrists. “Many trained Egyptians travel to European countries looking for better chances. The result is a shortage of psychiatrists as well as authorised medical centres for drug treatment,” says Abul-Azayem.
Licensed rehabilitation centres charge upwards of LE200 a day, unlicensed centres much less.
“Parents often resort to unlicensed units because of the high cost of treating addictions,” points out Abul-Azayem.
“Many parents prefer to send their sons and daughters for treatment at unauthorised centres to preserve the anonymity of patients. The result can be devastating,” says Saber Ghoneim, an assistant to the minister of health.
Abul-Azayem recommends the opening of more dedicated anti-addiction clinics in suburban areas to encourage addicts to seek treatment.
Egypt’s anti-drug laws are among the world’s harshest, with capital punishment for some drug-related crimes.
Nahed Ramzi, a member of the National Centre for Social and Criminological Research, says the centre has conducted a number of studies of the problem.
“Young people come to drugs through peer pressure, family problems, academic failure, cigarette smoking and low faith in God. The majority of users begin using drugs under pressure exerted by people close to them,” says Ramzi.
According to the latest statistics issued by the Health Ministry, seven per cent of Egypt’s population are regular drug users, and narcotics cost the economy more than LE3 billion a year. The report also revealed that 30.6 per cent of addicts believe that drugs increase their physical abilities, 36.6 per cent use drugs to overcome hardships and 34.8 per cent take drugs to overcome depression.

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